Double trouble: big portions of calorie dense foods

Big portions encourage people to eat more but big portions of calorie dense food -- the kind Americans tend to grab on the run -- boost calorie consumption even higher without providing additional satisfaction, a new Penn State study has shown.

The study, the first to focus on the combined effects of both portion size and calorie density or the calories per ounce, showed that calorie density and portion size add together to affect caloric intake. Tanja Kral, doctoral candidate in nutritional sciences who conducted the study as part of her dissertation, says, "Even though the study participants consumed 221 fewer calories when offered a smaller meal of lower calorie density, they felt just as full and satisfied as when they had consumed a larger meal of higher calorie density."

Kral's dissertation adviser is Dr. Barbara Rolls, who holds the Guthrie Chair of Nutrition in Penn State's College of Health and Human Development. "The fact that the participants in this study didn't notice when they were given lower calorie density food offers evidence that the food industry could change their products to make them healthier without causing customer dissatisfaction," Rolls says. "Small reductions in the calorie density of foods will allow people to eat satisfying portions without consuming too many calories which, in turn, may help them with weight management."

Kral presented her results in a paper, "The Combined Effects of Energy Density and Portion Size on Food and Energy Intake in Women," today (Oct. 13) at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Her co-authors are Liane Roe, research nutritionist, and Rolls. Kral is one of five finalists selected for the Ethan Sims Young Investigator Award to be announced at the meeting.

In the study, 39 normal weight and overweight women ate breakfast, lunch and dinner once a week for six weeks in Penn State's Laboratory for the Study of Human

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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