Larger glasses may encourage us to drink more

Wine glasses (Photo: Getty Images)

Whenever I offer to top up my wife’s wine glass she inevitably asks me to pour a smaller than normal measure. “Just a touch” is the phrase she uses. Marion believes that if I pour more she will drink more. I, on the other hand, think that if I pour more I will have to get up and top her glass less often.

A recent paper published in the British Medical Journal on research done at the University of Cambridge suggests that Marion may well be right.

After studying the size of wine glasses from 1700 to the present day, the researchers concluded that wine glasses increased in size from just 62mls in 1700 to an average of 432mls today. That’s a whopping seven-fold increase.

More than half of that increase took place from the 1900s when over-sized wine glasses became popular, particularly in the US. Georg Riedel has got a lot to answer for.

Wine consumption in the UK and US has soared, particularly since the 1960s. That doesn’t necessarily prove that bigger glasses are linked to higher consumption, although previous studies have found that larger plate sizes can increase food consumption.

From my point of view, larger glasses do heighten the pleasure of wine drinking, which might encourage us to throw caution to the winds and drink a little more than we originally planned.

The researchers concluded:

“We cannot infer that the increase in glass size and the rise in wine consumption in England are causally linked,” the study’s authors wrote. “Nor can we infer that reducing glass size would cut drinking. Our observation of increasing size does, however, draw attention to wine glass size as an area to investigate further in the context of population health.”

2 thoughts on “Larger glasses may encourage us to drink more”

  1. John Overton says:

    Bob, in reply to your conundrum about refilling your wife’s glass, just sit closer to your wife. She really wants more wine, and probably would like not to have to ask for it. Trust me, I know.

  2. Gillman Ken says:

    This is one small facet of a substantial amount of research into how the environment affects eating behaviour. Sometimes, what we instinctively presume, and call ‘common sense’, turns out not to be substantiated by more critical observation and investigation (science): however, in this case Marion is undoubtedly correct!

    It is useful for anyone interested in eating and drinking, well and healthily, to appreciate the subtle influences and effects involved. It is no surprise that people who use larger plates also tend to have larger helpings of food. Those who sit nearer the food service area are more likely to have a second serving, and so on … .

    Anyone who wishes to use such knowledge will profit from reading Brian Wansink’s review article in the ‘New Scientist’ a couple of years ago. The alternative is simply to search Google scholar for his name and trawl through the myriad of papers on this subject.

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