We've been overeating our way through ever-larger portions over the past 1,000 years, a U.S. study revealed following the analysis of more than 50 paintings of the biblical Last Supper.
The study, by Cornell University professor Brian Wansink and his brother, Craig, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College, showed the portion and plate sizes in the artworks, which were painted over the past millennium, have gradually grown between 23 and 69 per cent.
This finding suggests the phenomenon of serving bigger portions on bigger plates, which pushes people to overeat, has occurred over the same time period, Cornell's Dr. Wansink said.
"The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food," Dr. 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 studied 52 paintings depicting the Last Supper that were featured in the 2000 book Last Supper, and used computer-aided design technology to analyze the size of the main meals, 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 about 23 per cent.
The research was published in the April edition of the International Journal of Obesity.