New research by the University of Cambridge reported that people consumed more food when offered bigger portion sizes or tableware – and that eliminating larger sized portions could reduce energy intake among UK adults by up to 16%.
Dr Gareth Hollands, of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit, which conducted the research, said: “It may seem obvious that the larger the portion size, the more people eat, but until this systematic review of the evidence for this effect has been fragmented, so the overall picture has – until now – been unclear.”
He added that there was a tendency to portray personal characteristics such as being overweight or having a lack of self-control as the main reasons people overeat, when in fact the situation was more complex.
Dr Gareth Hollands:
Findings highlight important role of environmental influences on food consumption
“Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption. Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with large portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating,” he said.
Separate research published in the British Medical Journal this week claimed banning trans fats in restaurants would save 1,800 lives over the next five years by reducing the number of heart attacks and strokes.
Trans fats are made from plant oils, partially hydrogenated to make them more solid and are used in products such as margarine, crisps, sweets, biscuits and cooking oil to improve taste and extend shelf-life.
Academics from Oxford, Liverpool and Lancaster universities said a total ban on trans fats was technically feasible but required decisive action.
If a ban was implemented – not just in the hospitality sector but spanning fast food outlets and retail – the academics said roughly 7,200 lives could be saved between now and 2020.