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Portion Distortion: The Last Supper Gets Super-Sized

It is said that art imitates life. And, this holds true even in depictions of the divine. A study conducted by a Cornell University professor and his brother, a Presbyterian minister and religious studies professor, has found that depictions of the famous Last Supper of Jesus Christ has seen a growth in the food portion sizes over the last 1,000 years.

But, the obesity crisis has only been a problem in the last few decades. So, what can be taken from these findings?

“The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance, and affordability of food,” says Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.”

The researchers analyzed 52 paintings that depict the Last Supper, all of which were featured in the book “Last Supper.” They used computer-aided technology to evaluate the size of the main meals, bread, and the plates relative to the average size of the disciples’ heads.

What they found was that over the past 1,000 years the size of the main meal has grown by 69 percent. The plate size has increased 66 percent, and the bread by about 23 percent.

Whether or not anything useful can come of these observations is uncertain, but it’s at least moderately interesting to ponder.

(via: Reuters)

April 2nd, 2010

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