Potential moderators of the portion size effect

Faris M. Zuraikat, Alissa D. Smethers, Barbara J. Rolls

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Aim: The robust effect of portion size on intake has led to growing interest in why individuals consume more food when served larger portions. A number of explanations have been proposed, and this review aims to provide insight into potential underlying factors by summarizing recent studies testing moderators of the portion size effect. Summary of findings: Provision of portion size information, such as through labeling or training in portion control, failed to attenuate food intake in response to increasing meal size. This indicates that a lack of knowledge about appropriate portions may not be sufficient to explain the portion size effect. In contrast, there is evidence for a role of decision making in the response to large portions, with value being one consideration of importance. The portion size effect may be more closely related to the inherent value of food than monetary value, since provision of the opportunity to take away uneaten food after a meal, which can reduce food waste, attenuated the portion size effect but variations in pricing did not. A number of studies also support an influence of orosensory processing on the portion size effect; large portions have been shown to relate to increased bite size and faster eating rate. Reduced oral processing time when consuming large portions could contribute to the effect by delaying sensory-specific satiety. Findings from a recent study supported this by demonstrating that sensory-specific satiety did not differ between larger and smaller portions despite substantial differences in intake. Conclusions: A number of moderators of the portion size effect have been identified, including factors related to the environment, the food, and the individual. It is likely that multiple variables contribute to the response to large portions. Future research should aim to determine the relative contribution of explanatory variables across different contexts and individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-198
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - May 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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