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100-calorie packages have been introduced by the food industry to help reverse the trend of overeating. However, research results on the effectiveness of sub-packaging in reducing consumption have been mixed. We hypothesize that this might be due to such studies not taking into account individual characteristics such as BMI. Obese people are known to rely more on environmental cues, so 100-calorie packages could be particularly beneficial to this sub set of people. In this study, we examined if 100 calorie packages have different effects on people of normal weight versus people who are overweight.
37 college students participated in our study of which 15 were overweight (BMI≤25). Participants were asked to watch a comedy show and were given either one 400-calorie bag of crackers, or four 100-calorie bags of crackers to eat as they watched the show.
Results showed that participants eating from the 100-calorie bags consumed 25.2% less calories (75.1 calories) than those eating from the 400 calories packages. This effect was more pronounced amongst overweight individuals, who decreased their intake by 54.1%. 100-calorie packages appear to be less effective in reducing consumption amongst normal weight individuals probably because they perceive the packages to be diet-friendly and use less self-control. However, results indicate that the 100-calorie packages are a smart option for overweight individuals to incorporate into their diet and reduce their caloric intake.
Wansink, Brian, Collin Payne, and Mitsuru Shimizu (2011). The 100-Calorie Semi-Solution: Sub-Packaging Most Reduces Intake Among the Heaviest. Obesity, 19(5): 1098-1100. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-7-63.