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Dr. Sue Pedersen of the University of Calgary points to the limited carbohydrate section of the diet plate. ((CBC))

Eating from plates and cereal bowls marked to show portion sizes helped people with diabetes to shed pounds comparable to the results of weight loss drugs, researchersinAlberta found.

As well, more people who used the portion control plates — 26 per cent —were also able to decrease their use of diabetes medications after six months, compared with almost 11 per cent of those who did not receive the special tableware.

For the study, Dr. Sue Pedersen of the University of Calgary and her colleagues followed 130 obese people with Type 2 diabetes for six months, including 55 who were taking insulin.

"We know that portion sizes have grown bytwo to five times what they were 20years ago, and portion sizes that are available to us now far exceed what an actual recommended portion size is," Pedersen told CBC News.

"This tool is a simple way to bring portion sizes back to what they are actually meant to be, and by virtue of that, losing weight."

After six months, people using the portion-control dishes lost an average of 1.8 per cent of their body weight, compared with 0.1 per cent for those who did not use the dishes.

Among those using the special dishes, nearly 17 per cent lost at least five per cent of their weight— a clinically significant amount in terms of reducing deaths and disease associated with obesity-related disorders such as a cancer and heart attack, the researchers said.

"In conclusion, the portion control tool studied in this trial was effective in inducing weight loss in obese persons with Type 2 diabetes mellitus comparable to that seen in investigations of weight loss pharmacotherapy," the study's authors wrote.

"This intervention holds promise for use in overweight populations with and without diabetes mellitus."

Price of dishes far less than cost of medication

Achieving weight loss and reducing the need for medication reduces the potential for side-effects, the researchers noted.

The one-time cost of the dishes was about one-sixth that of a six month supply for sibutramine or Meridia, a prescription medication that suppresses appetite, and one-fourth the cost of a six-month supply of orlistat or Xenical, which prevent fat absorption.

The British manufacturer of the Diet Plate donated the plates and bowls used in the study but did not fund the study. The dishes are divided into sections for carbohydrates, proteins, cheese and sauce, with the rest left for vegetables.

The plates are designed to allow about 800-calorie meals for men and 650 calories for women, while the bowl is meant for dining on 200 calories of cereal and milk. Theyare available for sale online, Pedersen said.