This week’s bad science headline comes from the BBC:

Last supper ‘has been super-sized’, say obesity experts

The food portions depicted in paintings of the Last Supper have grown larger – in line with our own super-sizing of meals, say obesity experts.

Let’s scroll down the article and find where they got their data: they examined 52 paintings over the last 1000 years.

Only 52 paintings? Most of them before 1900, and one suspects all of them from a few western European countries.

The main meals grew 69% and plate size 66% between the oldest (carried out in 1000AD) and most recent (1700s) paintings. Bread size grew by about 23%.

The sharpest increases were seen in paintings completed after 1500 and up to 1900AD.

Yup. Blame it on the new plows, the three field rotation, introducing beans, and increased trade, all of which started about 1000 A.D. and made the starvation of the Dark Ages a thing of the past.

However, as a Catholic, I don’t agree with  this statement:

Craig Wansink, who is a professor of religious studies, says the changes in portion sizes is probably a reflection of culture rather than theology.

Actually, I suspect he is wrong. You see, in Catholicism, the emphasis is not on the “last supper” as a meal per se, but on the introduction of the Eucharist, the bread and wine that Christ said would be “His body” and blood, that was to be celebrated by his followers to commemorate him and his teachings.

With the Reformation, sermons replaced the mass, and the Catholic part of the meal was disemphasized (the Catholic mass, which took Christ’s instructions literally, i.e. that the bread and wine actually became his body and blood, was ridiculed by some as “hocus pocus”).

So, the eating aspect became more important, along with the long windy sermon of Jesus that is recounted in the gospel of John…you needed a lot of food to get through that talk.

Voila, instead of a few pieces of bread and a cup of wine, you had a banquet.

However, one wonders why editors allowed a pseudo scientific article to be printed. To get the publicity of course.

Christians are used to the media presenting mocking articles on their beliefs during Holy week, but as a scientist, one has to wonder when they use pseudoscience to get a politically correct headline.


I did search for the original article, but alas the links provided by the papers don’t work, so I had to rely on secondary reports.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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