'Portion distortion' may contribute to expanding waistlines, study reports

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ New research shows that people's perceptions of normal portion sizes have changed in the past 20 years. A study out of Rutgers published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that Portion Distortion may be the cause1. This phenomenon occurs when consumers perceive large portion sizes as appropriate amounts to eat at a single eating occasion.

"It has previously been established that portion sizes of virtually all foods and beverages served at restaurants and packaged for single-serve have dramatically increased over the last two decades," said Jaime Schwartz MS, RD, who was a graduate student at Rutgers at the time of this study. "Our study compared what people perceive to be a typical portion size now to what was perceived as typical two decades ago, before portions began to grow. We also compared current perceptions of typical portions to reference portion sizes, defined in this study as the serving size on the Nutrition Facts panel."

This study replicated one that was done 20 years ago in which participants were asked to serve themselves the amount they considered to be a typical portion of each meal item on a buffet table2. To follow this model, Schwartz and co-author, Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, PhD, RD, enrolled 177 young adults to participate. All were invited to attend one meal, selecting typical portions of a total of eight meal items at breakfast or six at lunch and dinner. Food and beverage choices mirrored the study of 20 years ago as to permit valid comparisons between typical portions over time.

Portions Are Distorted

Interestingly, most foods with drastically different portion sizes over the two decades were all served from and consumed from a cup or bowl. For example, typical portions of orange juice were more than 40 percent larger in the present day study than they were 20 years ago. In nutritional terms, this larger amount of orange juice provi

Contact: Michele Hujber
732-932-7000 x4204
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

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