Study under review: Plate size and food consumption: a pre-registered experimental study in a general population sample.
The way to lose weight is by taking in fewer calories than you burn, but that’s easier said than done. One potential way to make energy intake reduction easier is to reduce plate size—a technique that’s suggested by reputable sources like the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. If someone uses a smaller plate, they may serve themselves smaller portions, and this will cause them to eat less overall. Or, perhaps the effort of having to refill a small plate will act as a minor barrier to taking in more food.
While these are nice stories that seem to make sense, stories aren’t science. Whether small plates lead to reductions in energy intake that can in turn lead to weight loss is a hypothesis that can and should be tested empirically. And it has; there have been enough studies in this context to feed three) meta-analyses on the topic. But, as some of these meta-analyses’ authors have noted, there is a problem: a sizable number of the studies that went into the analyses are of questionable quality (e.g., it’s unclear if they were randomized), or enroll people that don’t represent the general population well (e.g., children).
In order to determine whether plate size would actually affect food intake for most people, high-quality randomized controlled trials have to be conducted with participants who are more representative of the general population. Until recently, no such trial existed. The study under review aimed to fill this gap.
It’s plausible that eating off of smaller plates could lead to less food intake, which in turn could help with weight loss. However, many of the studies examining whether plate size actually affects food intake are of questionable quality or have recruited people that don’t represent the general population. The study under review was designed to examine the issue with a high-quality study design and people who are more representative of the general population.
Other Articles in Issue #60 (October 2019)
Vitamin D on the mind: can vitamin D help with Alzheimer's?
This randomized controlled trial suggests that supplementation has a surprisingly strong effect on aspects of cognition in people with mild Alzheimer's disease. But are the results a little too surprising?
Mini: Is vitamin D supplementation useful for pregnant women?
We've previously covered evidence suggesting that pregnant women supplementing with vitamin D have a lower risk of giving birth to babies with low birthweight. This Cochrane review suggests vitamin D may have other benefits as well.
Can vitamin D impact mortality?
This meta-analysis suggests that if it does, the effect size on all-cause mortality is pretty darn small. However, supplementation may reduce the risk of dying from cancer.
The surprisingly satiating effects of fasted cardio
Skipping breakfast before morning cardio cuts out some calories early in the day, but are those calories just consumed later on?
Supplementing spirulina for metabolic maladies
This meta-analysis synthesizes the latest evidence concerning spirulina's ability to make a dent in the metabolic syndrome.
Red flags in study design cast doubt on soy supplementation study results
Want to know some reasons why we don't usually cover studies looking at proprietary supplement blends? Then read on.
Interview: Suzanne Robotti, Founder of MedShadow
In this interview we chat with the founder of MedShadow, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide the information needed to weigh the risks and benefits of healthcare treatments.