In a new study from Pennsylvania State University, researchers found that the portion of food that you put on your plate and how fast you eat it could determine how much you’re eating—or potentially overeating.
They found that when people were given larger portions of macaroni and cheese for lunch, they ate more, as much as 43% more when the portion size was increased by 75%.
Those who ate faster or took bigger bites also tended to eat more food.
In the study, the team tested 44 men and women for a weekly lunch for four weeks, giving them different-sized portions of macaroni and cheese.
They videotaped the meals so they could assess the speed at which participants ate, as well as the size of their bites.
Study participants ranged in age from 18 to 68 years old. About two-thirds were women. About 45% were overweight or obese.
The team found the speed of eating didn’t change with bigger portion sizes. The participants ate more when they ate faster or took larger bites, and also when they took more bites or ate for a longer time.
The reason for people eating more when they ate faster could be a matter of the body’s response to how long food spends in a person’s mouth.
The team says when people eat really quickly, obviously, the food is spending less time in their mouths. And when they take really large bites, the food is spending less time in their mouths.
So, it takes longer for these signals to tell the brain to stop eating and people ended up eating more when we take larger bites and eat faster.
Knowing that people eat more when their portion sizes are bigger, one recommendation is to be aware of the portions you’re giving yourself.
A person can also offset consuming more energy or calories than they need by choosing foods that have fewer calories per gram. These can be water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Though slowing down eating might be an option for reducing overconsumption, it’s hard to do, and some evidence suggests that eating speed is a genetically based behavior.
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The study was presented at the American Society for Nutrition virtual annual meeting. One author of the study is Paige Cunningham.
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