Portion control tools a ‘simple and inexpensive strategy’ to tackle obesity

The approach is the latest strategy designed to tackle weight gain from a behavioural angle in order to put in place long-term lifestyle changes and personal coping strategies to avoid overeating. ©iStock/maramorosz

Defining portion sizes using tools such as special tableware can help promote modest weight loss among obese people who are following a strict dietary plan, say Cambridge scientists.

Experiments using calibrated tableware such as guided crockery sets, portion pots and utensil sets scored highly amongst participants in this British study, who rated their acceptance, ease of use and perceived effectiveness.

Use of these tools, along with portioning serving spoons, also resulted in an increase in self-selected portion sizes for vegetables and a decrease for chips and potatoes.

The approach is the latest strategy designed to tackle weight gain from a behavioural angle in order to put in place long-term lifestyle changes and personal coping strategies to avoid overeating.

Researchers from the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK enrolled 29 obese adults who had completed seven to 12 weeks of a community weight-loss programme.

They were asked to use a crockery set and serving spoons for two weeks each, in a crossover study design, with little contact and assistance from health professionals.

Information on acceptance, perceived portion size changes, frequency and type of meal was collected via a paper-based questionnaire.

Don’t supersize me

Researchers found mean scores for acceptance, ease of use and perceived effectiveness were moderate to high (3·7–4·4 points from a maximum of 5.0). Tool type did not appear to have an impact on the scores given.

The team also found that 27 participants was lost an average of 1.7kg over the duration of the study.

Twenty-one participants lost weight, whilst one participant maintained weight and five gained weight.

“These results, suggest these tools may be a useful strategy in weight-loss interventions, at least within the home context,” the study authors said.

“Our results are further supported by participants’ accounts that the tools helped learning about portions and to control portions especially for starchy food.”

The team recommended further research was in order to explore the mechanisms by which portion control tools influenced learning.

This could include assessments as to whether they increase weight loss in the longer term over and above standard dietary advice.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition

Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.1017/S0007114516004104

Acceptability and potential effectiveness of commercial portion control tools amongst people with obesity.”

Authors: Eva Almiron-Roig et al

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