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Only one way to tackle obesity: Cut portion sizes

Health specialists working at the University of Cambridge have trawled through 61 separate studies into diet and food. The only aspect of diet and food that leads to weight reduction consistently and across a wide demographic is reducing portion sizes. To arrive at this seemingly simple outcome, the researchers interviewed and reviewed studies relating to 6,711 people, who had taken part in a wide range of clinical trials.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, told BBC Health: “This study clearly demonstrates that reducing portion sizes is a successful way to cut calories. It’s important to keep an eye on portion sizes when cooking, shopping and eating out to avoid overeating and help maintain a healthy weight.”

For this reason, the researchers recommend people using smaller plates, glasses and cutlery so that the sizes of the portions reduce. According to the British Heart Foundation’s Portion Distortion report, portion sizes of ready-made meals have been increasing. A review of typical supermarket fare, sampling dishes in 1993 and 2013, found:

Shepherd’s pie ready meals had almost doubled in size,
Bagels increased in size from 70 grams to 86 grams,
A family packet of crisps had increased by over 50 percent in weight,
A portion of salted peanuts is now 80 percent larger,
An individual chicken pie is some 40 percent larger.

The main concern of the researchers was obesity rates and the association with a range of ill-health issues, such as type 2 diabetes.

The research findings are published in the journal Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The research is titled “Portion, package or tableware size for changing selection and consumption of food, alcohol and tobacco.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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