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The smaller the cereal flake, the more you'll eat

Committed researchers at Penn State discover that the size of your flake dictates the size of your intake. Oddly, though, the smaller the flake, the more you'll want to eat.

How much is there really? ronaele1931/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I have a difficult relationship with things (and, sometimes, people) that are miniature.

There is something ineffably cute about the diminutive. There is also something dangerously menacing.

Take Cadbury Mini Fingers. They seem so innocent, so harmless. Yet, after 10 of them I question my digestion and the Mini Fingers' motivation.

Science has suddenly leaped to stand by me in my suspicion.

Some intrepid researchers at Penn State decided they would examine just how much minis can affect your stomach's drift to the maxi.

They chose cereal flakes as their subject. Maybe I've already eaten all of America's Mini Fingers.

Perhaps, though, the research budget at Penn State isn't high. Because they resorted to taking a rolling pin to some cereal flakes in order to reduce their size. The result of this is that the cereal became more compact.

Would people simply put a smaller volume of cereal in their bowl? Yes, they would. But the researchers found that cereal eaters still put more by weight and calorie intake than they did with larger flakes.

You might imagine that people knew that they'd done this. You might also imagine that Jargonelle pears grow on Christmas trees.

They were, indeed, convinced that they had managed to reduce their calorie intake.

As study author Professor Barbara Rolls said: "When faced with decreasing volumes of cereal, the people took less cereal. Yet, even though they thought they were taking the same number of calories, they ended up significantly overeating."

Rolls believes we mustn't just think about food in terms of volume, but also of density. We need, she believes, to think about calories per bite.

She said: "For cereals with small pieces, the recommended serving size should be reduced to account for the uncharacteristically low volume, in the same way that the recommended serving size is increased for voluminous foods, such as puffed cereals and leafy greens."

In the end, though, we're always looking for excuses to fool ourselves. We seek them out in the hope that we'll get what we want, without anyone criticizing us for our excesses.

This is something that, I am sure, the manufacturers of Cadbury Mini Fingers, Mini Snickers bars, and a host of other cutesy products understand.