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Bigger Tableware Helps Widen Waistlines

In study, people ate more when using larger spoons, bowls

TUESDAY, July 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Want to lose weight? Try downsizing your tableware.

That's the conclusion of a new study that found that the size of bowls, spoons and other tableware influences how much people eat.

The study, by researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., involved 85 food and nutrition experts invited to an ice-cream social.

Each guest randomly received either 17-ounce or 34-ounce bowls and either two-ounce or three-ounce serving scoops. The participants scooped out the ice cream themselves.

"Just doubling the size of someone's bowl increased how much people took by 31 percent," study lead author Brian Wansink, director of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab, said in a prepared statement. "We also saw that giving people a scoop that was a little bit larger increased things by about 14.5 percent," he said.

He noted that even these food and nutrition experts, who were able to judge the size and calorie counts of their portions, couldn't help themselves when given larger bowls and scoops.

"The fact that even they end up being tripped up by these cues just helps to show how ubiquitous and how subversive these illusions can be," said Wansink, a consumer researcher who studies the psychology of food choice.

He noted that experts have documented a number of environmental factors that influence consumption, including the variety of food, music, temperature, and whether people are dining with a faster or slower eater. The size of tableware also appears to be another factor that influences consumption.

"Four ounces of ice cream in a small bowl may appear an appropriate amount for a mid-afternoon snack, but the same in a larger bowl may appear too small, leading one to over-serve," the study authors said.

The findings were expected to be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about portion sizes.

SOURCE: Health Behavior News Service, news release, July 25, 2006
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