News Release

Trying not to overeat? How you eat matters

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

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Society for Nutrition

Videotaping meals

image: The researchers videotaped each meal to assess the speed at which participants ate and the size of their bites. view more 

Credit: Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior, The Pennsylvania State University

Rockville, Maryland (June 7, 2021) -- 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 is being 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."

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 will present this research on-demand during NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE from noon on Monday, June 7 through 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 (abstract; presentation details).

Images available.

Please note that abstracts presented at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE were evaluated and selected by a committee of experts but have not generally undergone the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. As such, the findings presented should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication is available.



NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE, held June 7-10, 2021 is a dynamic virtual event showcasing new research findings and timely discussions on food and nutrition. Scientific symposia explore hot topics including clinical and translational nutrition, food science and systems, global and public health, population science and cellular and physiological nutrition and metabolism. #NutritionLiveOnline

About the American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

ASN is the preeminent professional organization for nutrition research scientists and clinicians around the world. Founded in 1928, the society brings together the top nutrition researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers and industry leaders to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition. ASN publishes four peer-reviewed journals and provides education and professional development opportunities to advance nutrition research, practice and education.

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