The Last SupperLeonardo da Vinci’s 1498 painting of The Last Supper.Photo: Drewwiki via Wikimedia Commons

In a strange study published this week by the International Journal of Obesity, professors found that portion sizes in artistic renditions of The Last Supper increased dramatically in the past 1,000 years, the L.A. Times reports.

The study, conducted by brothers Brian and Craig Wansink, looked at 52 artistic versions of The Last Supper created between 1,000 and 2,000 A.D. The finding: portion sizes of entrees of Jesus’ disciples grew by 70 percent and the bread size grew by 30 percent. Even the size of the plates ballooned by 66 percent.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations matched.

Brian Wansink, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab told the Times, “I think people assume that increased serving sizes, or ‘portion distortion,’ is a recent phenomenon. But this research indicates that it’s a general trend for at least the last millennium.”

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

If portion sizes started rising hundreds of years ago, does that mean we needn’t worry about the effects now? Not quite, New York University nutrition researcher Lisa R. Young tells Healy:

There is scant evidence that the body mass index of people in developed societies soared into unhealthy ranges for most of the 1,000 years studied, Young said. But there is little doubt, she added, that that changed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s — coincidentally, when portion sizes began a dramatic run-up.

Now that we know what Jesus would do — pile more food on his disciples’ plates — we have to ask, What would Michelle do?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.