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University of Cambridge Study Underscores Weight Loss Tips

Dinner plate color may matter for weight loss

After reviewing 72 separate studies focused on obesity, researchers from the University of Cambridge gleaned support for previous weight loss tips that could stop obesity in the U.S.


In past articles, we’ve reported on the benefits of changing your dinner plate color and size toward using portion control to decrease the number of calories consumed per meal as a way help dieters manage their weight. Today, that advice and some additional recommendations are supported by a collection of multiple studies and published under a single review.

In this review researchers noted that there historically has been a tendency to portray personal characteristics such as a lack of self-control as the main reason why people overeat. However, according to their review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 72 separate studies that offered fragmentary evidence about obesity and weight loss were pieced together resulting in the discovery that there’s more to obesity than just a lack of self-control. In fact, rather than being purely a matter of self-control, it turns out that the data shows that people consume more food or non-alcoholic drinks when offered larger sized portions or when they use larger items of tableware.

Watch: 6 Easy Tips on Eating Less

The purpose of the review was to examine how much of an effect the amount of food adults and children select or consume, change in response to how the food items are presented e.g. with larger or smaller-sized portions or packages of the food items, or the size and shapes of items of tableware such as plates or glasses that are used when dining.

According to the review, the 72 studies consisted of thousands of study participants ranging in age from three to 55 years where comparisons between a minimum of two groups were made when presented with different sizes of portions of food, the packaging it was presented in, and the tableware used to consume the food.

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What the researchers found was that the combined evidence consistently pointed to the fact that people eat more food or drink more non-alcoholic drinks when offered larger-sized portions, larger packages of food, and larger items of tableware than when offered smaller-sized versions.

Furthermore, their interpretation of the data suggests that by eliminating larger-sized portions from the diet completely, it could reduce calorie intake by up to 16% among UK adults (equivalent of up to 279 kcals per day) and 29% among US adults (equivalent of up to 527 kcals per day)—which should result in significant weight loss given enough time.

However, their data also shows that the food shopping environment also plays a significant causal role toward how much we eat. For example, adults who buy food for their families tend to be influenced on pricing practices whereby larger portion and package sizes cost less in relative (and sometimes absolute) monetary terms than smaller sizes and thus offer greater value for money to the food shopping adult, but at the cost of added calories.

In a news release from the University of Cambridge, Dr. Gareth Hollands from the Behaviour and Health Research Unit, who co-led the review, stated: “It may seem obvious that the larger the portion size, the more people eat, but until this systematic review the evidence for this effect has been fragmented, so the overall picture has, until now, been unclear. There has also been a tendency to portray personal characteristics like being overweight or a lack of self-control as the main reason people overeat.”

“In fact, the situation is far more complex. Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption. Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating,” added Dr. Hollands.

For more on how to avoid “overserving” yourself and your family, here are some helpful tips on avoiding common diet wreckers and how that changing your dinner plate colors could make a difference.

Reference: The Cochrane Library (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews)― “Portion, package or tableware size for changing selection and consumption of food, alcohol and tobacco” Published Online: 14 Sept. 2015; Gareth J. Hollands et al.