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May 13, 2015 08:59 PM EDT

Weight Loss: Dining With Light Eaters May Help You Lose The Pounds

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Your dining companion may have a big influence on how much food you consume in a sitting, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales found that social modeling, a social effect, psychological effect, could cause people to eat less than they normally would if their dining companion consumes a small amount of food or is a light eater, Newsmax reported.

"Internal signals like hunger and feeling full can often be unreliable guides. In these situations people can look to the example of others to decide how much food they should consume," Lenny Vartanian, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

For the study, Vartanian and his colleagues reviewed the results of 38 studies in which that the "amount of food people ate in company was measured," Yahoo News reported.

They found that social factors can have a big influence on consumption.

"When the companion eats very little, people suppress their food intake and eat less than they normally would if alone," Vartanian said. "If the social model eats a large amount, people have the freedom to eat their normal intake, or even more if they want."

This effect has been observed with healthy and unhealthy snack foods, during meals, when the diner has been deprived of food for up to day, and among children, and it occurs independent of people's body weight.

Researchers also found that this effect may be stronger in women than men.

The findings are detailed in the journal Social Influence

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