Food portion sizes: trends and drivers in an obesogenic environment

Maria Papagiannaki, Maeve A Kerr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults has increased worldwide. A strong environmental factor contributing to the obesity epidemic is food portion size (PS). This review evaluates the current evidence linking food PS to obesity, examines the effects of PS on energy intake (EI), and discusses the drivers of food PS selection. The leading causes of the rise in PS include globalisation, intensive farming methods, the impact of World War II, due to shortage of staple foods, and the notion of waste not, want not. Large PS of energy-dense foods may stimulate overconsumption, leading to high EI levels. However, the studies have not shown a cause-and-effect relationship, due to confounding factors. Important mechanisms explaining the attractiveness of larger PS leading to higher EI levels are value for money, portion distortion, labels on food packaging, and tableware. Consumers depend on external rather than internal PS cues to guide consumption, irrespective of satiety levels. Further research is recommended on food consumption patterns to inform policymakers and provide information and insights about changes in diet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-41
Number of pages41
JournalNutrition Research Reviews
Early online date12 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished online - 12 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

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© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Energy intake
  • Trends
  • Food portion sizes
  • Obesity
  • Energy density


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