Why do we eat so much?

Published: October, 2004

Boston, MA—A nice, cozy atmosphere, big helpings, the way the food is arranged—seemingly small variables like these may go a long way toward explaining the American penchant for overeating. While many people are concerned with what's in their food, recent studies suggest that we pay more attention to the circumstances in which we eat. The November issue of the Harvard Health Letter looks at the various environmental factors that contribute to America 's increased food consumption.

Although fast food can be nutritionally unhealthy, unhurried meals can also add calories through desserts and extra drinks. When we linger over food, we are more likely to eat more without noticing. Researchers at Georgia State University in Atlanta have found that when people eat with others, they consume 44% more food than when they eat alone. Additionally, people tend to eat more with spouses, family members, and friends than they do with strangers. Not surprisingly, putting food within easy reach also promotes consumption.

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