In Obesity, Portions Count, New Analysis Reveals

Although opinions about nutrition and the real cause of the obesity epidemic abound, a health authority now gives the real scoop: portion size is responsible.

"Nearly every dish and beverage Americans now consume is supersized compared with what they used to eat," reports Jane Brody of the New York Times in "Forget the Second Helpings. It's the First Ones That Count" (July 06).

"An average serving of pasta is now 480 percent greater than the one-cup recommended serving size, Lisa Young and Marion Nestle, nutritionists at New York University, reported in 2002 in The American Journal of Public Health. Some cookies, they found, are 700 percent larger.

"A New York bagel, now sold nationwide, weighs five or six ounces. That is five or six bread portions, supplying about 500 calories, not counting cream cheese or butter. The muffin tins from my childhood produce muffins one-third the size of those at Starbucks.

"Restaurants like fast-food and takeout establishments, as well as family-style businesses, pile on food with no regard for recommended portions.

"Drinks are in 24-ounce sizes or larger, often with free refills."

Time to recall the maxim "you are what you eat." Or bring a calculator, since Brody reminds the reader to double or triple the calories on the label if eating multiple portions.

One interesting concept is "energy density:" foods with low energy density (calories per weight) -- like fruits and vegetables -- are better, since people tend to eat the same weight of foods each day.