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Thought Bullets
April 2006

Portion Distortion:  Disparity between awareness and action

Early in 2003, both the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and the Journal of the American Medical Association published articles on the dramatic increase in food portion sizes in the U.S.  The studies reported that over a 20 year period of time, portion sizes increased 60% for chips, 52% for soft drinks, 27% for Mexican food, and 23% for hamburgers.  Increased portion sizes teamed with many people’s desire to clean their plates, gave rise to the term “portion distortion.”  The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) completed a phone survey in February of 2006 that came to this conclusion: although many Americans are now aware of “portion distortion,” most have not made changes in their eating behaviors.

Levitsky D, Obarzanek E, Mrdjenovic G, Strupp B. Imprecise control of energy intake: Absence of a reduction in food intake following overfeeding in young adults.  Physiology and Behavior, 84(5):669-675. April 2005.

Weldon G. Prince J. New Survey on Portion Size: American Still Cleaning Plates. The American Institute for Cancer Research news release. February 22, 2006.

Lang S. Cornell overeating study suggests that how much we eat depends more on external cues, such as portion size, than on biological signals.  Cornell University news release.  August 15, 2005.

Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD

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