Super-sizing the Last Supper

We’ve
been overeating our way through ever-larger portions over the past 1,000 years,
a U.S. study revealed after studying more than 50 paintings of the Biblical
Last Supper.

The study, by a Cornell University professor
and his brother who is a Presbyterian minister and a religious studies
professor, showed that the sizes of the portions and plates in the artworks,
which were painted over the past millennium, have gradually grown by between 23
and 69 per cent.

This finding suggests that the
phenomenon of serving bigger portions on bigger plates, which pushes people to
overeat, has also occurred gradually over the same time period, said Brian
Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

“The last thousand years have
witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance
and affordability of food,” Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why
We Eat More Than We Think,” said in a statement.

“We think that as art imitates
life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history’s most famous
dinner.”

The researchers analyzed 52
paintings depicting the Last Supper which were featured in the 2000 book
“Last Supper” by Phaidon Press, and used computer-aided design
technology to analyze the size of the main meals, or entrees, bread and the
plates relative to the average size of the disciples’ heads.

The study found that, over the past
1,000 years, the size of the main meal has progressively grown 69 per cent;
plate size has increased 66 per cent and bread size by about 23 per cent.

The research, conducted with
Wansink’s brother, Craig Wansink, a professor of religious studies at Virginia
Wesleyan College, was published in the April edition of The International
Journal of Obesity.

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