The percentage of overweight Americans has increased in recent
decades. Despite many possible reasons for the increase in
obesity cases, the root cause is essentially a greater overall
energy intake than energy expenditure. One reason for obesity
in the U.S. may be larger food portion sizes, especially outside
of the home, which encourage individuals to eat more calories.
Portion sizes for popular take-out restaurants, fast-food
chains, and family restaurants were measured and compared
to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) standards, and to portion sizes in the
past. Information was obtained from portion weights, package
labels, and manufacturer claims. Below are the findings of
the study, which appeared in the American Journal of Public
- Excluding white bread, all commonly available food portions
exceeded USDA and FDA standards. The largest excesses occurred
in cookies (700% over USDA suggestion size), pasta (480%),
and muffins (333%).
- Portion sizes for foods such as hamburgers, French fries,
and soda were two to five times larger in the study than
in the past.
- Portion sizes started to increase in the 1970s, grew dramatically
in the 1980s, and currently continue to rise parallel to
increases in average American body weights.
Food manufacturers and restaurants have little incentive
to reduce portion sizes: Profits for these companies rise
when product size is increased. Also, a recent survey showed
that Americans ignore portion sizes when attempting to follow
a healthy diet. As portion sizes at restaurants increase,
realize that despite what your parents taught you, you don't
always have to clean your plate.
Young LR, Nestle M. The contribution of expanding portion
sizes to the U.S. obesity epidemic. American Journal of
Public Health 2002:92(2), pp. 246-249.
To locate more studies on nutrition, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/find/archives/nutrition.