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Painters of Last Supper Paint Bigger Portions of Food


The biblical event known as The Last Super has been one of the most analyzed meals in history and two brothers have published a study stating that today the meal would have been super sized.

Brothers Brian and Craig Wansink teamed up to study 52 of the best-known paintings of the Last Supper that was served over1,000 years ago. They were looking for trends in the size of the plates and the portions that could have been heaped upon them if that meal was served today.

The new research, described in the current issue of the International Journal of Obesity, demonstrates that the loaves of bread in the scenes have gotten 23 percent larger over time, while plate size has jumped 66 percent. Those tasty entrees have grown by 69 percent. "You just sort of see more food on the table," professor Craig Wansink said.

Brian Wansink, professor and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, suggests that the phenomenon of serving bigger portion sizes and bigger plates, known in the obesity business as "portion distortion," isn't a recent development instead it has occurred gradually over the millennium.

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“I think people assume that increased serving sizes, or portion distortion is a recent phenomenon,” said Brian who is also the author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think." He further stated, “This research indicates that it’s a general trend for at least the last millennium.”

Brian said, "The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food. We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history's most famous dinner."

The brothers used paintings featured in the book "Last Supper" and through the use of computer-aided design technology, they were able to scan the main dish, bread and plates and calculated the size of portion relative to the size of the average head in the painting.

Charlene Shoneye, an obesity dietician for the charity Weight Concern stated, "I'm really not surprised by these findings because the size of our plates and food portions has increased.”

Shoneye said it was not too late to reverse the trend and that individuals, society and the food industry should look to smaller portions. "Part of the problem is the type of food that has increased in size. Portions of fruit, veg and salad have not grown. They should make up about a third of your plate, with the remaining two-thirds left for protein and starchy foods."