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A study of historic paintings of the Last Supper show that Jesus and the Disciples were served healthy portions … at least at first.

Duccio di Buoninsegna's Last Supper

Over the centuries, artists have given them more and more on their plates, writes syndicated columnist Scott LaFee.

It seems that in the most ancient paintings, the portions on the plates of Christ and the chosen Twelve were appropriate for a healthy lifestyle. Then, over the last 1,000 years, the portions have grown dramatically — reflecting today’s overweight society

LaFee cites a 2010 study by brothers Brian and Craig Wansink pub­lished in the In­terna­t­ional Jour­nal of Obes­ity.

Meisters des Hausbuchs' classic

“Brian studies eating habits at Cornell University. Craig is a professor of religion at Virginia Wesleyan,” writes the LaFee. “They calculated the growth in Biblical proportions by comparing food on the table to the one constant in all of the paintings: the size of the apostles’ heads.”

They considered Last Supper paintings painted by such masters as Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1260-c. 1319), Tiziano Vecellio, better known as “Titian” (c. 1490-1576) and Leo­n­ardo da Vin­ci (1452-1519) — a total of 52 paintings.

They found that over the years, the por­tion sizes grew by 69 per­cent, plate sizes increased by 66 per­cent and the size of the bread grew by 23 per­cent.

“I think peo­ple as­sume that in­creased serv­ing sizes, or ‘por­tion dis­tor­tion,’ is a re­cent phe­nomenon,” wrote Bri­an Wan­sink. “But this re­search in­di­cates that it’s a gen­er­al trend for at least the last mil­len­ni­um.”

 

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