Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 238–248 | Cite as

Portion Sizes and Obesity: Responses of Fast-Food Companies

  • Lisa R Young
  • Marion Nestle


Because the sizes of food portions, especially of fast food, have increased in parallel with rising rates of overweight, health authorities have called on fast-food chains to decrease the sizes of menu items. From 2002 to 2006, we examined responses of fast-food chains to such calls by determining the current sizes of sodas, French fries, and hamburgers at three leading chains and comparing them to sizes observed in 1998 and 2002. Although McDonald's recently phased out its largest offerings, current items are similar to 1998 sizes and greatly exceed those offered when the company opened in 1955. Burger King and Wendy's have increased portion sizes, even while health authorities are calling for portion size reductions. Fast-food portions in the United States are larger than in Europe. These observations suggest that voluntary efforts by fast-food companies to reduce portion sizes are unlikely to be effective, and that policy approaches are needed to reduce energy intake from fast food.


overweight obesity portion sizes serving sizes fast food calories 



We thank Somantha Peterson for technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York University, Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public HealthNew YorkUSA

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