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The largest Last Supper: depictions of food portions and plate size increased over the millennium


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.

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We thank Audrey Cohen for help with data collection, and to Mitsuru Shimizu and Darcy Steeg for help with data analysis.

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Correspondence to B Wansink.

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Wansink, B., Wansink, C. The largest Last Supper: depictions of food portions and plate size increased over the millennium. Int J Obes 34, 943–944 (2010).

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  • portion size
  • art
  • plate size
  • calories
  • history
  • content analysis

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