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Portion control for the treatment of obesity in the primary care setting

Rebecca L Kesman1, Jon O Ebbert1*, Katherine I Harris2 and Darrell R Schroeder1

Author Affiliations

1 Mayo Clinic, 200 1st Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA

2 University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics; 200 Hawkins Drive, E 327-1 GH; Iowa City, IA 52242, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:346  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-346

Published: 9 September 2011



The increasing prevalence of obesity is a significant health threat and a major public health challenge. A critical need exists to develop and evaluate practical methods for the treatment of obesity in the clinical setting. One of the factors contributing to the obesity epidemic is food portion sizes. Limited data are available on the efficacy of visual or tactile devices designed to enhance patient understanding and control of portion sizes. A portion control plate is a commercially-available product that can provide visual cues of portion size and potentially contribute to weight loss by enhancing portion size control among obese patients. This tool holds promise as a useful adjunct to dietary counseling. Our objective was to evaluate a portion control intervention including dietary counseling and a portion control plate to facilitate weight loss among obese patients in a primary care practice.


We randomized 65 obese patients [body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 and < 40] to an intervention including counseling by a dietitian incorporating a portion control plate or to usual care. Following initial consultation, patients in the intervention arm were contacted at 1, 3, and 5 months by the dietician for brief follow-up counseling. Usual care subjects received instructional handouts on diet and exercise. Forty-two (65%) subjects returned to have weight assessed at 6 months. Subjects in the portion control intervention had a greater percentage change (± SD) in weight from baseline at 3 months (-2.4% ± 3.7% vs. -0.5% ± 2.2%; p = 0.041) and a non significant trend in weight change from baseline at 6 months (-2.1% ± 3.8% vs. -0.7% ± 3.7%; p = 0.232) compared with usual care. Nearly one-half of patients assigned to the portion control intervention who completed the study reported the overall intervention was helpful and the majority would recommend it to others.


Our findings suggest that a portion control intervention incorporating dietary counseling and a portion control plate may be effective for enhancing weight loss among obese subjects. A portion control intervention deserves further evaluation as a weight control strategy in the primary care setting.

Trial registration

Current controlled trials NCT01451554