Can kitchen spoons be dangerous spoons?

Jan 04, 2010
Research led by Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, shows we should not rely upon kitchen spoons when measuring liquid medicine. Here, Dr. Wansink conducts a test pour in the lab's kitchen. Credit: Jason Koski

\A new study published in the Jan. 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine illustrates the dangers of using kitchen spoons to measure liquid medicine.

Former cold and flu sufferers were asked to pour one teaspoon of nighttime flu medicine into kitchen spoons of differing sizes. Depending upon the size of the spoon, the 195 former patients poured an average of eight percent too little or 12 percent too much medicine.

"When pouring into a medium-size tablespoon, participants under-dosed. But when using a larger spoon, they poured too much medicine," said Dr. Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, who led the study.

"Twelve percent more may not sound like a lot, but this goes on every four to eight hours, for up to four days," Wansink explained. "So it really adds up—to the point of ineffectiveness or even danger."

Visual illusions and spatial relationships are familiar topics in Wansink's work in food and eating behavior. In his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, he shows how smaller plates can unknowingly decrease how much people eat, and how taller glasses can decrease the amount of alcohol poured by even expert bartenders.

"Simply put, we cannot always trust our ability to estimate amounts," said the study's co-author, Dr. Koert van Ittersum, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Georgia Tech. "In some cases it may not be important, but when it comes to the health of you or your child, it is vital to make an accurate measurement."

Wansink and van Ittersum recommend using a proper device—a measuring cap or dropper, or dosing spoon or syringe—to measure liquid medicine.

Explore further: More should be done for female parolees

Provided by Cornell Food & Brand Lab

2 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Alcohol Over-pouring Caused by Short Glass Shapes

Dec 23, 2005

Your eyes can play tricks when it comes to pouring drinks. People – even professional bartenders – inadvertently pour 20 to 30 percent more alcohol into short, wide glasses than tall, slender ones of the same volume, ...

Bottomless bowls are an Ig Nobel winner

Oct 12, 2007

Last week, he was featured in Time magazine and USA Today. This week, he's been accorded yet another accolade: a 2007 Ig Nobel Award. All three recognize Cornell's indefatigable Brian Wansink for his quirky ...

'Healthy' restaurants help make us fat, says a newl study

Sep 24, 2007

If you're like most, you eat worst at healthy restaurants. The "health halos" of healthy restaurants often prompt consumers to treat themselves to higher-calorie side dishes, drinks or desserts than when they eat at fast-food ...

Do low-fat foods make us fat?

Dec 08, 2006

Recent Cornell studies in movie theatres, holiday receptions, and homes showed people eat an average of 28% more total calories when they eat low-fat snacks than regular ones. "Obese people can eat up to 45% more," reports ...

The 'clean plate club' may turn children into overeaters

Mar 06, 2009

"Finish your broccoli!" Although parents may have good intentions about forcing their kids to eat cold, mushy vegetables, this approach may backfire the very next day, according to new research from Cornell University.

Recommended for you

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

1 hour ago

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Internists favor public policy to reduce gun violence

7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Most internists believe that firearm-related violence is a public health issue and favor policy initiatives aimed at reducing it, according to research published online April 10 in the Annals of ...

iPLEDGE isotretinoin counseling may need updating

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The iPLEDGE program needs to provide women with information about more contraceptive choices, including reversible contraceptives, according to research published in the April issue of JAMA De ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

otto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2010
Look at that spoon bend! Maybe we could measure using only the power of the mind! Maybe we don't need medicine at all, except Homeopathy Placebo! Maybe geller knows-
PPihkala
not rated yet Jan 04, 2010
I think it's stupid to tell people to take x spoonfulls or xx milliliters of something, without controlling the size of the taker. Surely it has more effect whether the patient weights 100 or 200 pounds or kgs than the size of the spoon. At least for the animals the doses are per kg's of weight.
ET3D
not rated yet Jan 06, 2010
"Twelve percent more may not sound like a lot, but this goes on every four to eight hours, for up to four days," Wansink explained. "So it really adds up—to the point of ineffectiveness or even danger."

Huh? Regardless of how long it goes on, it still amounts to 12%. So yes, it may be that 12% makes it more dangerous, but I don't see how it "really adds up".

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...