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Clinical Research

Abnormal perception of food size in anorexia nervosa

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 18 June 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:1689
  1. P M Yellowlees,
  2. M Roe,
  3. M K Walker,
  4. D I Ben-Tovim


    The hypothesis that patients with anorexia nervosa exaggerate the perceived size of food was tested. Video recordings of five items of food and four neutral objects of a similar size were made such that the size of each object increased steadily from half to twice its normal size. Each of the nine objects was placed on a ledge inside a dummy television screen next to the video screen, the food items alternating with the neutral objects, and 20 female patients with anorexia nervosa and 20 female controls matched for age were asked to adjust the size of the video recording to that of the real object. Although there was no overall difference in perceptual accuracy between patients and controls, both groups perceived the food items as being bigger than the neutral objects, the patients exaggerating the size of the food significantly more than the controls.

    These results imply that patients with anorexia might start eating more easily when admitted if their food were presented as small portions on large plates.

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