Trying Not to Overeat? Researchers Videotaped People Eating and Discovered That How You Eat Matters

The researchers videotaped each meal to assess the speed at which participants ate and the size of their bites. Credit: Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior, The Pennsylvania State University

Study finds people who eat more tend to take larger bites or eat faster.

According to a new study, people who eat faster or take larger bites are more likely to eat more at a meal. The research, which was presented at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE, provides new insight into the factors that might contribute to overeating.

The study also adds more evidence that people eat more when given larger portions. The researchers found that study participants ate, on average, 43% more when the portion size of a meal was increased by 75%.

“Although studies have consistently found that people eat more when they are served larger portions, less is known about why this happens or why some people are more responsive to the effects of large portions than others,” said first author Paige Cunningham, a doctoral student at The Pennsylvania State University. “This is one of the first studies to explore whether the characteristics of eating speed and bite-size have an effect on people’s food consumption in response to larger portions.”

The researchers asked 44 men and women to each lunch in their laboratory once a week for 4 weeks. For each meal, the study participants received, in random order, a different portion of macaroni and cheese with water to drink. Credit: Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior, The Pennsylvania State University

For the new study, the researchers served 44 men and women lunch once a week for four weeks. For each meal, the study participants received, in random order, a different portion of macaroni and cheese with water to drink. The researchers videotaped each meal to assess the speed at which participants ate and the size of their bites.

The fact that participants ate meals that were all four sizes, meant that they could each serve as their own comparison. The researchers expect the results to be generalizable to other groups since the study participants were diverse in terms of age, sex, body weight, income and education.

“Based on our findings, being aware of portion size, slowing down when you eat, and taking smaller bites of food could help avoid overconsumption,” said Cunningham. “Also, since people eat more when served more, overconsumption of calories from large portions can be reduced by choosing foods that have less calories per bite. This lets you eat the same filling portions of foods while consuming fewer calories.”

The researchers plan to perform more studies to see if their findings apply to a longer, more complex meal that includes a variety of foods, textures, and flavors.

Cunningham presented this research during NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE.

Food ScienceNutritionObesityWeight Loss