Obesity Watch: Information on Portion Sizes

In earlier entries about obesity, I discussed some of the research on the psychology of portion sizes- bigger plates mean bigger portions eaten, etc. I hope you remembered. In case you didn’t, today in the New York Times, David Leonhardt wrote an article that made the front page of the Business section (don’t ask me why the article is in the Business section?). The author discussed Brian Wansink and his book, “Mindless Eating” which was published last year. Professor Wansink has done much of the interesting research on the psychology of eating as it relates to portion sizes. The article is a good review of the subject.

The gist of Professor Wansink’s “message” is that people make decisions about eating and drinking, i.e., how much to eat and drink, not based on appetite, but rather, on various cues such as the size of the plate, the bowl, or the glass. The data are rather compelling.

Do the professor’s data help explain the obesity epidemic?

Professor Wansink’s studies and similar studies by others leave me wondering one thing. If we do eat more at time-point A than our appetite centers compell us to do, is the appetite center smart enough to “recommend” less intake at time-point B, resulting in no net increase in caloric consumption over and above what the appetite center has “calculated” we need overall? Given the steady increase in obesity in the U.S., I suspect the appetite center is not capable of such fancy adjustments, but I’d like to see some data on the subject.

Anyway, I intend to read Professor Wansink’s book and I hope many others will also do so. Let me know what you think.

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