Food sizes can influence how much we eat and food unit corresponds to the amount of a certain food being consumed at one eating occasion. Scientists have studied the effect of altering the portion sizes presented to the participants. This study examines the effect of reducing the sizes of the items in a portion, keeping the portion size unchanged. Unlimited candy was made available to 33 participants sitting in separate cubicles, participating in an unrelated computerized experiment. Half of the number of women selected for the study were given candies that were halved. The amount consumed by each of the participant was analyzed. “Results showed that decreasing the item size of candies led participants to decrease by half their gram weight intake, resulting in an energy intake decrease of 60 calories compared to the other group.”
A food portion can consist of a single item (a slice) or many (candies). This study keeps the portion size same (for example a 10 oz. bucket of chicken nuggets) while reducing the size of each item in it (20 small nuggets instead of 10 large ones). This can be done when the food served comes in units that can be counted, and not as amorphous foods like rice or salad. Some authors have suggested that “when foods with a distinct shape are served (strawberries, cookies), people estimate their consumption in numbers rather than in quantities.” Controlling the sizes of snacks this way may help weight loss programs.
* Participants were given an unrelated computer-based task. The participants were in separate booths and were asked to help themselves to the candies placed next to the computer.
* The participants were served with 90 g (318 calories) of candies that came up to 10 gummy candies and 10 gummy ribbons. Half the number of the participants received these candies in their unchanged form, and the other half got the same amount, only each candy/ribbon was cut in half.
* The duration of the study was five hours. The general eating habits, liking for the candy, hunger etc. of the participants were considered. The candy containers were weighed after the experiment to find out the amounts consumed.
* Data were statistically analyzed.
* Candidates who were overweight or who disliked candy were excluded from the study.
* Of the 33 participants who ate candies, 19 in the large candy group and 14 in the small sized candy group consumed roughly the same number of candies, in spite of the difference in size.
* Thus, participants in the larger candy group consumed nearly 60 calories more than those in the small candy group.
* The gram weight intake was thus seen to be driven by the size of the food-item, irrespective of the number.
* No participant consumed more than 95 percent of the candies offered.
The participants included mostly college-going Belgian women of normal body mass index. It is hard to extrapolate the results obtained in this study to other age groups, weight groups and ethnicities. The results are also based on one short-term snacking event. Long-term food consumption studies using smaller item sizes need to be conducted using wider variety of foods.
When the sizes of items in a portion are decreased, people end up eating a much smaller amount of food, at least when it comes to snack time. This does not seem to alter their sense of satiety. This is a very important result from the point of view of designing weight loss and weight management programs. People trying to lose weight are often unable to determine correct portion sizes; however, more number of smaller items may automatically help them eat less. Conscientious manufacturers could help by changing their packaging strategies. The study proves that the perception of the consumer of what is the proper amount to eat, affects his or her food intake.
For More Information:
Smaller Food Item Sizes of Snack Foods Influence Reduced Portions and Caloric Intake in Young Adults
Publication Journal: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, May 2011
By David Marchiori, PhD; Laurent Waroquier, PhD; Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; Université de Toulouse, France
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.