Portion size and intended consumption. Evidence for a pre-consumption portion size effect in males?

Appetite. 2015 Aug;91:83-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.04.009. Epub 2015 Apr 9.


Larger portions increase energy intake (the 'portion size effect'); however, the mechanisms behind this effect are unclear. Although pre-meal intentions are thought to be an important determinant of energy intake, little research has examined how much of a meal individuals intend to eat when served standard versus larger portion sizes. Three studies examined the effect of manipulating portion size on intended food consumption. In Studies 1 (spaghetti bolognese) and 2 (curry and rice) male participants were shown an image of either a standard or a larger meal and indicated how much of the meal they intended to consume. In Study 3 male and female participants were served either a standard or a larger portion of ice cream for dessert, they indicated how much they intended to consume and then ate as much of the ice cream as they desired. Regardless of being shown standard or large portion sizes, in Studies 1 and 2 participants reported that they intended to eat the majority of the meal, equating to a large difference in intended energy consumption between portion size conditions (a 'pre-consumption portion size effect'). This finding was replicated in male participants in Study 3, although females intended to eat a smaller proportion of the larger portion of ice cream, compared to the standard portion. Both male and female participants tended to eat in accordance with their pre-meal intentions and a portion size effect on actual consumption was subsequently observed in males, but not in females. The portion size effect may be observed when measuring pre-meal intended consumption in males.

Keywords: Food portions; Intended consumption; Portion size effect; Pre-meal planning.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Energy Intake*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Internet
  • Lunch
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Photography
  • Portion Size*
  • Self-Control*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Young Adult