OBESITY could be combatted by reducing food product portion sizes, according to researchers from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK. A series of experiments revealed it is possible to change people’s perceptions of what constitutes a normal portion size, ensuring they eat less in the future.
The growth of obesity globally is linked to historical increases in portion sizes of commercially available foods; therefore, reducing portion sizes has been suggested as a way of tackling the crisis. To test this theory, the team wanted to see if they could ‘renormalise’ perceptions of what a normal-sized portion of food entails.
In the first of three experiments, participants were randomised to receive either larger or smaller portions of the same meal: quiche and salad. To ensure they were unaware of the real aim of the study, which may have had detrimental effects, the participants were informed that the experiments were part of a ‘food, mood, and reasoning’ study.
The next day, the subjects were allowed to serve themselves any portion they wished of the same meal, and then after 1 week, they were asked what their preferred portion size was. From these experiments it was found that those initially given a smaller-sized portion had changed their perception of what a normal-sized amount of food was and chose to eat less in the future. These results suggest that reducing the size of commercially-available food products could be a viable means of tackling obesity and associated conditions such as diabetes.
“The present findings indicate that if portion sizes were reduced, these smaller, more appropriate portion sizes may recalibrate perceptions of what constitutes a ‘normal’ amount of food to eat and, in doing so, decrease how much consumers choose to eat,” commented Dr Eric Robinson, University of Liverpool.
The authors caution that the research does not show how long this perception would last for, noting that the effects were more pronounced in the second experiment, 24 hours after the first, compared with the third experiment which took place after 1 week. “It is likely that the effect would only last if we encounter smaller portion sizes more often than supersized portions,” said Dr Inge Kersbergen, University of Liverpool.
James Coker, Reporter
For the source and further information about the study, click here.