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If you fill it, they will
slurp -- and slurp, and slurp and slurp ...
Business and Law Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The eye is greater than the gut.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report
dramatic evidence of the importance of visual cues in the control of
food intake in the current issue of Obesity Research, a leading nutrition
The researchers served a free soup lunch to 54 adults, half of whom
ate from normal 18-ounce soup bowls, while the other half ate from identical
bowls that, unbeknownst to the participants, were slowly refilled through
tubing connected to out-of-sight soup cauldrons.
Those who ate out of the refilling bowls consumed 73 percent more soup
than did participants who ate from the normal soup bowl during the 20-minute
Although they averaged 113 more calories than those eating from normal
bowls, those eating from the bottomless bowls believed they consumed
the same number of calories as the other participants and rated themselves
as being no more full.
“People use their eyes to count calories and not their stomachs,”
lead researcher Brian Wansink, professor of marketing and of nutritional science at Illinois, said. “This can be dangerous to our diets.”
Because we appear to judge our food intake by visual cues, such as an
empty bowl, Wansink said that people worried about overeating should
carefully consider the size of portion servings in restaurants and in
He suggested, for example, repackaging snacks and other bulk foods into
small plastic bags. The visual cues from the filled bags can lead families,
especially children, to think that a smaller-than-normal serving was
a satisfying full serving.
The paper, titled “Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion
Size May Influence Intake,” was co-written by James E. Painter,
a professor of family and consumer science at Eastern Illinois University,
and Jill North, a graduate student in food science and human nutrition