British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Socio-cultural determinants of meal size and frequency

John M. De Castroa1

a1 Department of Psychology, Behavior and Neurobiology Program, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA


Total energy intake and the frequency and size of meals are profoundly influenced by the socio-cultural context in which it occurs. Simply eating with one other person increases the average amount ingested in meals by 44% and with more people present the average meal size grows even larger. The impact of social facilitation of energy intake on the individual appears to result from genetic effects both on the individuals' sensitivity to the presence of other people and also on the number of other people an individual tends to eat with. Culture markedly affects the choice of foods in the diet and the pattern of meals over the day. However, many of the social, psychological and physical variables that influence intake are similar across cultures.