Eliminating larger-sized portions could reduce caloric consumption by up to 29% among adults in the United States, as a comprehensive review published in the Cochrane Library reports that portion, package, and tableware size influence food consumption patterns in adults.

A total of 61 randomized-controlled studies on 6,711 participants were evaluated to assess the impact of portion, packaging, and tableware on food consumption. The study authors found that overall, participants consistently consumed more food and drink if they were offered larger-sized portions, packages, or tableware compared to smaller-size versions. It is also suggested that the amount of daily energy consumed could be reduced by 12–16% among adults in the U.K. and 22–29% among adults in the U.S. with reductions in exposure to large sizes. The size of this effect did not significantly vary for men and women, or by body mass index (BMI), susceptibility to hunger, or tendency to consciously control eating behaviors.

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Strategies in the review promoted to reduce the size, availability, or appeal of larger-sized portions, packages and tableware, include: upper-limits on serving sizes of energy-dense foods and drinks (eg, fatty foods, desserts and sugary drinks), or on the sizes of crockery, cutlery and glasses provided for use in their consumption; placing larger portion sizes further away from purchasers to make them less accessible; and demarcating single portion sizes in packaging through wrapping or a visual cue.

The authors add that it is not known if reducing portions at the smaller end of the size range can be as effective in reducing food consumption as reductions at the larger end of the range. As well, it has not been established if short-term changes in food quantities consumed lead to meaningful reductions in consumption long-term.

For more information visit Cochrane.org.