Research into food portion size: methodological aspects and applications
Portion sizes for certain foods have been increasing dramatically in recent years alongside obesity rates, concurring with the phenomenon of the portion size effect (more is consumed when more is offered). Portion size may be defined based on different purposes such as for dietary assessment, or therapeutic advice or food labelling, resulting in a variety of measurement methods and specifications. This situation has resulted in disagreements on establishing portion size recommendations by manufacturers, food distributors, restaurants, health professionals and policy makers, contributing to confusion amongst consumers on the amounts of food to be consumed, and potentially increasing the likelihood of overeating and other obesity-related behaviours. Such variability is also reflected in the research field making comparison across studies on portion size difficult. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of definitions and methods used in research to evaluate portion-size related outcomes, including methods to estimate amounts consumed by individuals as part of dietary assessment; methods to analyse cognitive mechanisms related to portion size behaviour; and methods to evaluate the impact of portion size manipulations as well as individual plus environmental factors on portion size behaviour. Special attention has been paid to behavioural studies exploring portion size cognitive processes given the lack of previous methodological reviews in this area. This information may help researchers, clinicians and other stakeholders to establish clearer definitions of portion size in their respective areas of work and to standardise methods to analyse portion size effects.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Review Articles