Study of Biblical Portions - NBC Southern California

Study of Biblical Portions

Researchers say the bread and wine in 52 Last Supper paintings has been super-sized



    Be the Toast of the Breeders’ Cup

    Research suggests the idea of super-sizing has been around for a long time.

    Using computer models, researchers found that the serving size of food depicted in 52 paintings of the Last Supper has increased during the last millennium. The results were published in the Journal of Obesity, which sounds reputable on all matters involving large portions of food.

    According to researchers, the size of the main course increased by 69 percent. The plate size in the paintings increased by 66 percent.

    And there was more than enough bread to break among 12 Apostles. It increased in size by 23 percent between the years 1000 and 2000.

    "What we see recently may be just a more noticeable part of a very long trend," said Brian Wansink, a food behavior scientist who conducted the study at Cornell University.

    Turning to the Bible doesn't help much when it comes to serving sizes at the final meal before the death of Jesus Christ. It mentions that bread and wine were served at the meal on a Passover evening.

    "There's nothing else mentioned. They don't say there's a fruit cup or carrot cake," said Wansink.

    Using computer images, Wansink and his brother --  a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College -- scanned and rotated the Supper scenes, including da Vinci's work, to come up with their calculations. They also compared the size of the food with the size of the Apostles' heads, which would have been dwarfed by the Poli-Bacon Burrito Dog at Barney's Beanery or anything on the Small Plates and Snacks menu at Cheesecake Factory.

    But at least one person whose title suggests he's worth consulting on matters of behavioral health psychology says the study provides little in the way of meaningful science. Martin Binks, a behavioral health psychologist and a consultant at Duke University Medical Center, told the Associated Press a study of Super Bowl commercials would be better for a contemporary look at our relationship with food.

    "We have real life examples of the increase in portion size -- all you have to do is look at what's being sold at fast-food restaurants," Binks told the Associated Press. "That would be a much more meaningful snapshot of how this society's relationship to food has changed."