Portion size: latest developments and interventions


  • I. Steenhuis
  • M. Poelman


Background: Portion sizes have increased over the past decades. This contributes to an increased energy intake and consequently an increased prevalence of overweight and obesity. The aim of this overview is to provide an overview of 1) underlying mechanisms of the effect of portion size on energy intake, 2) external factors explaining the portion size effect and 3) interventions and measurements aimed at food portion size. Methods: A literature overview of recent findings (last 5 years) is provided. Findings: Previous studies have shown that portion sizes have increased in recent decades. Many experimental studies have been conducted to unravel the mechanisms underlying the portion-size effect on food intake (e.g. the appropriateness mechanism, the ‘unit bias’ mechanism, the ‘previous experience/expectation’ mechanism, the ‘visual cue’ mechanism and the ‘bite size’ mechanism).In addition, external factors have been found to drive food portion selection and consumption (e.g. value for money, mindless eating, levels of awareness, estimation bias. Research on several interventions (ranging from ‘providing information’ to ‘eliminating choice’) have been conducted, but remain scarce, especially intervention studies in which portion size is a key focus in weight loss. Moreover, only three new instruments with respect to portion control behavior have been developed. Discussion: There is considerable evidence for the portion-size effect on energy intake. However, the work on interventions targeting portion size and measurements for portion control behavior are limited. Moreover, from the literature it is not yet clear what type of interventions work best, for whom and in what context.





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