Size makes a difference

Jeppe Matthiessen, Sisse Fagt, Anja Pia Biltoft-Jensen, Anne Marie Beck, Lars Ovesen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Objective: To elucidate status and trends in portion size of foods rich in fat and/or added sugars during the past decades, and to bring portion size into perspective in its role in obesity and dietary guidelines in Denmark. Data sources: Information about portion sizes of low-fat and full-fat food items was obtained from a 4-day weighed food record (Study 1). Trends in portion sizes of commercial foods were examined by gathering information from major food manufacturers and fast food chains (Study 2). Data on intakes and sales of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and confectionery were obtained through nation-wide dietary surveys and official sales statistics (Study 3). Results: Study 1: Subjects ate and drank significantly more when they chose low-fat food and meal items (milk used as a drink, sauce and sliced cold meat), compared with their counterparts who chose food and meal items with a higher fat content. As a result, almost the same amounts of energy and fat were consumed both ways, with the exception of sliced cold meat (energy and fat) and milk (fat). Study 2: Portion sizes of commercial energy-dense foods and beverages, and fast food meals rich in fat and/or added sugars, seem to have increased over time, and in particular in the last 10 years. Study 3: The development in portion sizes of commercial foods has been paralleled by a sharp increase of more than 50% in the sales of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and confectionery like sweets, chocolate and ice creams since the 1970s. Conclusions: Larger portion sizes of foods low in fat and commercial energy-dense foods and beverages could be important factors in maintaining a high energy intake, causing over-consumption and enhancing the prevalence of obesity in the population. In light of this development, portion size ought to take central place in dietary guidelines and public campaigns.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)65-72
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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