Could the weight of your serving dish make you obese?

A study published in the PLOS ONE Journal finds that people carrying heavier serving dishes are more likely to serve themselves higher than usual amounts of food.

Study: Weighing heavy: Heavy serving dishes increase food serving. Image Credit: Drazen Zigic/


Eating behaviors, such as quality and quantity of food consumption, are influenced by various environmental factors, including portion size, serving dishes, and food packages. All these factors can potentially influence people to eat more than usual amounts of food without necessarily being aware of its effects.

Overeating is a vital contributing factor to obesity and its negative health impacts. A sharply increasing prevalence of obesity demands healthier eating behavior to reduce the risk of health adversities.

The weight of the food is another vital factor influencing consumer's judgment of food price, quality, and taste as well as consumer's satiety. Similarly, the weight of serving dishes or utensils has some degree of influence on food evaluation. People eating yogurt with heavier spoons are likelier to perceive the yogurt as tastier.

In this study, scientists evaluated whether the weight of serving dishes can influence eating behaviors. They hypothesized that people using heavier dishes are more likely to eat more food than usual, particularly because of their reduced sensitivity to weight.

The study hypothesis is based on the scientific fact that people who become accustomed to the high base level of a physical stimulus tend to become less sensitive to additional changes in the stimulus. As Weber's law indicates, sensitivity to additional weight depends on the current carried weight.

Based on these facts, scientists argued that heavier serving dishes can influence people to be less sensitive to the weight of food served, which can increase the actual amount of food consumed by them.

The scientists made two predictions; "heavier serving dish weight leads consumers to serve themselves a greater amount of food," and "heavier weight of the serving dish leads consumers to estimate lower amounts of food served." These predictions were tested across two studies that examined actual food serving.

Study design

51 adult participants were enrolled to examine the effect of serving dish weight on the amount of food served.

The findings revealed that participants carrying heavier trays had served themselves significantly more food (almost two times) than those carrying lighter trays.

In contrast to actual food serving, participants carrying heavier trays estimated serving themselves lesser amounts of food compared to those carrying lighter trays. This finding supports the hypothesis that heavier serving dishes influence consumers to estimate lower food serving because of their reduced sensitivity to weight.

A separate set of analyses were conducted to investigate the impact of food liking on the amount served.

The findings revealed that participants carrying heavier dishes served themselves an increased amount of food they liked but not the food they did not like or liked less. This finding indicates that liking for food moderates the effect of serving dish weight on the amount of food served.

To increase generalizability, the study induced various healthy and unhealthy food options. The findings indicated that participants carrying heavier dishes prefer unhealthy foods more. Moreover, participants with heavier dishes estimated a lower number of calories compared to those with lighter dishes.

Study significance

The study highlights reduced sensitivity to weight because carrying heavy serving dishes can potentially increase the amount of food consumed.

In other words, people using rich serving dishes can unknowingly have more food than they usually consume. Such overeating can potentially increase the risk of obesity and other metabolic diseases.

To promote healthier eating behavior, the scientists suggest that serving dishes heavier than standard dishes should be avoided at both individual- and organizational levels.

More informational campaigns are needed to increase public awareness about the impact of dish weight on food serving.

Journal reference:
  • Tal, A., Grinstein, A. and Kleijnen, M. (2023) "Weighing heavy: Heavy serving dishes increase food serving", PLOS ONE, 18(8), p. e0288956. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0288956.

Posted in: Medical Science News | Medical Research News | Medical Condition News | Disease/Infection News

Tags: Food, Obesity

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Written by

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta is a science communicator who believes in spreading the power of science in every corner of the world. She has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree and a Master's of Science (M.Sc.) in biology and human physiology. Following her Master's degree, Sanchari went on to study a Ph.D. in human physiology. She has authored more than 10 original research articles, all of which have been published in world renowned international journals.