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Everybody's overeating?

June 6, 2003

Helen Chickering

This week, the CDC announced that obesity threatens to replace tobacco as the leading cause of death in America.

A growing number of studies suggest it's not the fat-filled snacks, or even fast food that's the driving force behind the obesity epidemic in America. The research shows the real problem is not what we eat, but how much.

It’s gotten so bad, experts say that Americans don't even know what a "normal" portion looks like. We’ve become a nation of couch potatoes with super-sized appetites.

The proof is in the pudding, and everything else we eat. What used to be the normal serving of French fries, is now a small. And the new large can become jumbo for just pennies more.

, "More french fries, a bigger soft drink, for the same price as you would for a medium," says Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz PhD. "That's cost effective but it's not health effective."

Portion perception and hunger perception are blurring into one big obesity risk factor, and it's not just happening at the drive through. A recent study of 50 people finds most couldn't judge an appropriate portion size of a serving of macaroni. It's half a cup in case you are wondering.

And researchers note, the study subjects reported the same level of fullness, even when they ate more food. "The individual shares a responsibility, because you are making that food choice," said Dr. Siega-Riz.

And even if it's a plate full of nutrition, the plate size counts. A serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. A half-cup for pasta, fruits and veggies.

The bottom line say nutrition experts, it's not the food that's making us fat, it's our portion distortion. An easy rule of thumb to get you back on track: assume every serving, whether it's fast food or home cooked is super-sized, and cut it in half.

Back when Jimmy Carter was president, a typical fast food burger weighed just over six ounces. Today they weigh in at more than seven. An order of French fries has increased by sixteen percent. Soft drink sizes have risen by fifty percent.

Experts say it's even worse at home where portions sizes are often even bigger. Need to review food portion sizes? Check out www.eatright.org

posted at 3:30PM by dave.miller@walb.com