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Copyright © 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.

NO EASY ANSWER TO CONTROLLING CALORIC INTAKE FROM “SUPER-SIZED” MEALS

Changing how fast food is served did not affect total calorie consumption.

About 75% of adolescents eat fast food at least once a week, and research suggests that the large portion sizes and rapid eating pace associated with fast food might bypass the body’s satiety cues. Investigators at Children’s Hospital Boston examined the effect of portion size and eating rate on energy intake in 18 adolescents (age range, 13–17; BMI >80th percentile).

Before consuming the baseline assessment meal (chicken nuggets, French fries, cola), adolescents were told that they could eat as much or as little of the food served as they liked and that refills were readily available. Participants were randomized to receive the same food during three subsequent sessions (with amounts based on 125% of their baseline consumption) either all at once, all at once but portioned into four servings, or portioned into four servings served individually every 15 minutes.

During the baseline meal, adolescents consumed a mean of 1383 calories. Mean calorie consumption did not differ significantly during the three eating conditions (about 1300 calories). Calories consumed during each meal represented about 50% of total daily energy expenditures.

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Who knew that 10 chicken nuggets, a large order of fries, and a 20-ounce cola contains 1220 calories? The authors conclude that teaching portion control and recommending slower eating rates are unlikely to help control …

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