Science - August 16, 2012

Smaller snacks still a treat

Bite-sized snack helpings satisfy eaters as much as big ones. Cutting portion sizes can help prevent overweight.

People who indulge in a mini-snack are just as satiated fifteen minutes later as people who take a much larger portion. This finding has come out of an experiment by Ellen van Kleef, associate professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour. Her results were published in the journal Food Quality and Preference.
During the study, 104 American students were offered unlimited quantities of three snacks: chocolate, crisps and apple pie. Half the students were offered mini-portions such as 10 grams of chocolate, 10 grams of crisps or 40 grams of apple pie. The other half were given large portions: 100 grams of chocolate, 80 grams of crisps or 200 grams of apple pie. On a questionnaire they indicated how hungry they felt and how strong their urge to eat was. In order to disguise the subject of the study, the test was made to look like a taste experiment. After they left, the food they had left uneaten was weighted.
Portion size appeared to have no impact on satiety or sensations of hunger. This finding has potential to help in the battle against overeating. Snack portions have been growing over the decades, both in America and in the Netherlands. 'The packets of drinks, crisps and cookies are all getting bigger and bigger', says Van Kleef. 'Even the slices of cheese in the nineteen seventies weighed less than they do now.' The increased intake of snack calories to become in effect a 'fourth meal' is even suspected to be one of the causes of the obesity epidemic.
Because students in this test are only monitored for fifteen minutes, it is not known whether a compensation effect goes into action later. Van Kleef: 'It could be that people from the one group eat more after two or three hours.'