Portion control, apostles, portion control!

This is one of those just-when-you-thought-you-heard-it-all items:

Two brother academics — an “eating behavior” expert and a religious studies prof — have studied images of the food in 52 of the best known paintings of the Last Supper and determined that the portions are getting larger over time.

They found that the main courses depicted in the paintings “grew by 69%, plate size by 66%, and bread size by 23%.”

Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, explains the significance: “I think people assume that increased serving sizes, or ‘portion distortion,’ is a recent phenomenon. But this research indicates that it’s a general trend for at least the last millennium.”

His bro, Craig Wansink, professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College, says: “As the most famously depicted dinner of all time, the Last Supper is ideally suited for review.”

Just to be clear, they’re not blaming Jesus for super-sizing it.

They’re saying that artists through history have chosen to include larger and larger meals. Maybe they were hungry. Maybe they were farmers on the side.

Maybe Weight Watchers will produce their own illustration of the Last Supper with nice measured portions.

The brothers’ study will be included in the April edition of the International Journal of Obesity. You have to love the abstract:


Portion sizes of foods have been noticably increasing in recent years, but when did this trend begin? If art imitates life and if food portions have been generally increasing with time, we might expect this trend to be reflected in paintings that depict food. Perhaps the most commonly painted meal has been that of Jesus Christ’s Last Supper, chronicled in the New Testament of the Bible. A CAD–CAM analysis of the relative food-to-head ratio in 52 representative paintings of the Last Supper showed that the relative sizes of the main dish (entree) (r=0.52, P=0.002), bread (r=0.30, P=0.04), and plates (r=0.46, P=0.02) have linearly increased over the past millennium.