A Kernel of Truth About Portion Sizes

Study finds even stale popcorn was appealing in larger batches

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THURSDAY, Nov. 24, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Large meal portions can push people to overeat foods they don't even like, according to a Cornell University study that found that people will eat more stale popcorn if it's served in a big bucket.

Researchers gave large- and medium-sized containers of 14-day old popcorn to moviegoers. Those who received the large containers ate 34 percent more stale popcorn than those who received the medium containers.

That difference was even greater when people were given fresh popcorn. Those who received a large bucket of fresh popcorn ate 45 percent more than people who were given the medium container.

The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

"We're finding that portion size can influence intake as much as taste. Large packages and containers can lead to overeating foods we do not even find appealing," researcher Brian Wansink, professor of marketing and applied economics at Cornell, said in a prepared statement.

He added that this behavior may actually have a potential benefit. Large portion sizes could be used to increase consumption of healthy food such as raw vegetables.

"While a small bowl of raw carrots might make for a good afternoon snack, a large bowl might be even better," Wansink said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about portion distortion.

SOURCE: Cornell University, news release, Nov. 9, 2005

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