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Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1 Suppl):236S-241S.

The influence of food portion size and energy density on energy intake: implications for weight management.

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  • 1Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802-6501, USA.


The increase in the prevalence of obesity has coincided with an increase in portion sizes of foods both inside and outside the home, suggesting that larger portions may play a role in the obesity epidemic. Although it will be difficult to establish a causal relationship between increasing portion size and obesity, data indicate that portion size does influence energy intake. Several well-controlled, laboratory-based studies have shown that providing older children and adults with larger food portions can lead to significant increases in energy intake. This effect has been demonstrated for snacks and a variety of single meals and shown to persist over a 2-d period. Despite increases in intake, individuals presented with large portions generally do not report or respond to increased levels of fullness, suggesting that hunger and satiety signals are ignored or overridden. One strategy to address the effect of portion size is decreasing the energy density (kilojoules per gram; kilocalories per gram) of foods. Several studies have demonstrated that eating low-energy-dense foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and soups) maintains satiety while reducing energy intake. In a clinical trial, advising individuals to eat portions of low-energy-dense foods was a more successful weight loss strategy than fat reduction coupled with restriction of portion sizes. Eating satisfying portions of low-energy-dense foods can help to enhance satiety and control hunger while restricting energy intake for weight management.

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