We’ve been overeating our way through ever-larger portions over the past 1,000 years, a U.S. study revealed after studying more than 50 paintings of the Biblical Last Supper.

The study, by a Cornell University professor and his brother who is a Presbyterian minister and a religious studies professor, showed that the sizes of the portions and plates in the artworks, which were painted over the past millennium, have gradually grown by between 23 and 69 percent.

This finding suggests that the phenomenon of serving bigger portions on bigger plates, which pushes people to overeat, has also occurred gradually over the same time period, said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

“The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food,” Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” said in a statement.

“We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history’s most famous dinner…”

The study found that, over the past 1,000 years, the size of the main meal has progressively grown 69 percent; plate size has increased 66 percent and bread size by about 23 percent.

Har!




  1. Dallas says:

    This is predictable.

    Increasing food product sales is easier with quantity versus quality. Mass production and lower costs has further made the “more quantity value proposition” the natural progression.

    Couple this with the fact that food (especially fat and sugars) provides quick remedy to stressful lives. Exercise does too but not a profitable means in our consumption oriented culture.

  2. Low Key says:

    My question is, why was the pope story pulled? I had to go to Google cache to check it out. Was it inaccurate or was somebody afraid of offending the church?

  3. dusanmal says:

    “Science” in this case. Have those researchers studied the size of humans during the same period? We have prospered and grown on average. Some estimates claim 20-30% over last 1000 years. Quite neatly matching the portion growth.

    @#2 Inaccurate and OLD (2006) hit piece…

  4. bobbo, int'l pastry chef and art critic says:

    Yea, and if you exam iconic art over time you will see that we’ve lost our wings and halo’s===but that skin quality and number of teeth, acne scarring, hair loss etc has remained almost uniformly absent in our species.

    Saw “Death Masks” last night on tv. Seems our historical figures had paintings made the way they wanted–and even perhaps (but not as often) played with their death/life masks as well.

    I love hoomans, always playing with the truth. Like the censorship of the Popeness. Horribly OLD stories have been left posted before.

    Always easier to re-write history if you forget it to begin with.

  5. Animby says:

    So, we should eat the paleolithic diet off saucers?

    I’m not sure using an artist’s rendition of a scene is the best way to gauge portion size. I like daVinci’s work but you’d hardly call his paintings photorealism! (“…bread size [increased] by about 23 percent.” Wait a minute – didn’t Europeans in the Middle Ages use a trencher made of half a loaf of stale bread as their dinner plate?)

    Of course, as food became more easily available more of it would be served.

    I think this one should be filed under Things We All Knew But Someone Got A Grant Paid For With Our Taxes To Sort Of Prove.

  6. Nobody says:

    Does rather lessen the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 – he just got a KFC party bucket.

  7. Buckwheat says:

    #6 Nobody – Read your Bible, fish was served! It was the Treasure Chest Family Meal from Long John Silver’s.

  8. Benjamin says:

    It just shows how God has blessed us. People in this country do not go hungry; in fact we have so much food, we turn it into gasoline. Hungry people can apply for food stamps, which allow a frugal individual to make filling foods.

    Even in Europe, the portion sizes are smaller and there is less of a selection to choose from.

    We are fatter, it is true, but I think it is less the foods we eat and more that habit of cleaning our plate that instilled into us at a younger age that makes us fat.

  9. bobbo, int'l pastry chef and art critic says:

    Benji==don’t fail to read the post on High Fructose Corn Syrup and watch the excellent video in the thread.

    I think it is fair to say we are being poisoned by Corporate Food. Cheap?==Yes. Good?==Not so much.

  10. Benjamin says:

    #9 Okay, I agree that I hate HFCS as well. Sugar would be cheaper for a capitalist to produce, but some government regulation favored corn.

  11. fred says:

    #10: Benjamin

    “but some government regulation favored corn.”

    Yes, it’s that socialist farm subsidy again.
    Better get the republicans to repeal it.

    By the way, has Rush Limbaugh left for Puerto Rico yet? If not – why not? 🙂

  12. clancys_daddy says:

    Just for the love of the flying sghetti monster tell me know public money was used for this.

  13. clancys_daddy says:

    Sorry that should have been no public money, hey at least I didn’t say pubic money!

  14. Macbandit says:

    But I’m not a missionary! I don’t even believe in Jebus… save me Jebus!

  15. RBG says:

    This “Har!” from a guy who has no problem believing in superstring infinity number of multi-universes including every permutation of himself.

    RBG

  16. bobbo, the evangelical anti-theist says:

    Hee, hee! Just saw Bill Oreilly get all anal over Elton John saying Jeebus was gay. “There is absolutely no proof of that===he’s a pinhead!!” says Oreally.

    So, the bibble says this long haired bearded hippy walked around unemployed in the company of 12 other hippies and he never had sex with a woman and generally tried to avoid them. Hmmm? Sliver thin the difference between that and being gay. And what difference would it make if he were??? Hah, hah. Dumb Catholics.

    Does the bible ever say Jesus is straight? BTW==this is not off thread as a hot dog is well known gay iconography.

  17. Eric says:

    If I ever get the chance to waste a lot of time and money, I’m going to see if there’s a connection between the explosive growth of the Chinese Buffet restaurants in the 1990s and obesity. Before then, Chinese was take out and the buffet was Ponderosa (or Hoss’s if you’re from western PA). Now just about everyone is within driving distance of 2 or more and if it weren’t for the waitress seating us at the other end of the dining room we’d never get any exercise.

  18. Animby says:

    Benjamin: No disagreement with what you said in #8. Just a side point. I am currently living in SE Asia. Here, it is shameful to leave a guest unsatisfied. On the other hand, if you clean your plate, you are subtly stating you did not get enough food.

    So, in general, portions are large but people do not eat everything they are served!

    Simialrly, in central Asia (Afghanistan) if you eat all of any dish on your plate, someone will replace it – not with a little more but with a full serving. So you quickly learn to leave some of each dish on your plate. But, in the wilds of northern Afghanistan where they have no way to refrigerate food and na’an (bread) goes stale very quickly, table scraps are given to the needy. Oh, sorry. Those stories have nothing to do with Jeebus. It’s those other fellas: Mo’HamI’mMad and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddher.

  19. Cursor_ says:

    #8

    People in the US DO go hungry. Every day. They do not starve as the scenes in East Africa, but go to WV, the inner cities and the reservations without casinos. You will find hunger. Go to the homeless that city mayors and council people want to legislate away from the public view. They are hungry. And they are not all there by choice as some insensitive bastards would have you believe.

    In Europe there is a bounty of food as well and they eat about as much as we do. The difference? They eat smaller portions more often. They don’t GET a break to have food and drink like we do as corporate slaves. They TAKE a break, whether people like it or not.

    The whole of hominid existence has been a long slow road to having bountiful food stores that have at the top of the menu high caloric and tasty items. We have achieved that goal.

    But, like any animal, when presented with an abundance we still eat as much as we can thinking there will be none tomorrow. We still have instincts. They are muted, but ever present.

    So at that point we have to train ourselves to limit the amount and string out the times we eat. Like many in the world already do.

    The US is still thinking like they are an agrarian nation and have to eat like they are still plowing the south 80. They do not anymore. But we are still trying to hold onto that image as it is traditionally American.

    Tradition for tradition’s sake. That is why we still vote only on Tuesdays because it was to placate the farmers in the 1800’s.

    Time to stop? Yes. Will they? Well ask an orthodox Jew should they have a cheese hotdog. The answer will be no as it is milk and meat and is an abomination.

    To borrow a line from Jesus, men prefer their old wine. Because they say it is better.

    Cursor_

  20. Benjamin says:

    We have food stamps in this country. No one HAS to go hungry. A lot of charitable organizations will even help you fill out the paperwork to apply for them. We are at the point where the food stamp program advertises to get people to sign up for them.

    #19 “People in the US DO go hungry. Every day. They do not starve as the scenes in East Africa, but go to WV, the inner cities and the reservations without casinos. You will find hunger. Go to the homeless that city mayors and council people want to legislate away from the public view. They are hungry. And they are not all there by choice as some insensitive bastards would have you believe.”

  21. Benjamin says:

    Thanks for the warning if I ever travel there. It is amazing how doing normal things can cause offense when in another culture. I understand that in the middle east, sitting in such a way that the bottom of your shoes can be seen as an insult. I do think that we got to research such things before we visit other countries.

    Animby said, on March 23rd, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    “Benjamin: No disagreement with what you said in #8. Just a side point. I am currently living in SE Asia. Here, it is shameful to leave a guest unsatisfied. On the other hand, if you clean your plate, you are subtly stating you did not get enough food.”

  22. Cursor_ says:

    #20

    Have you ever been on food stamps?

    First, if you have no place of residence you can’t get them. Just like welfare. Second, Native Americans can get food stamps but they are to be used in retail stores and some reservations are FAR from retail stores. Third, they do not give enough in food stamps to actually stop a family from being hungry. In many cases they provide enough for one meal a day when they are distributed once a month.

    So people go hungry. Not starve, but hunger is still an issue. Of course the government calls it Food Insecurity. Which to me sounds more like there may be the presence of ecoli or tricinosis than not having enough to eat.

    Cursor_

  23. Benjamin says:

    #22 Cursor, I have a challenge for you. Find out how much food you can buy with a month’s worth of food stamps. I promise to live within that budget for food for a whole month. I will not buy snacks from gas stations, nor order pizza, nor eat in restaurants during that month. Nor will I beable to enjoy alcoholic beverages or soda during that time.

    I bet you I will not go hungry during that time. I will probably get tired of tuna, tomato soup, Mac & cheese, eggs, and toast, but there will be food in my belly. I will also miss ordering pizza.

  24. Jess Hurchist says:

    #15 “a guy who has no problem believing in superstring infinity number of multi-universes including every permutation of himself.”

    That’s pretty easy to believe in, some things are a lot harder.


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