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The Red Plate Study

In a study done at Boston University over 10 years ago, biopsychologist Alice Cronin-Golomb and her research partners undertook a research study they call “The Red Plate Study” .  The idea was to see if seniors with Alzheimer’s would eat more from a red plate rather than a white plate.   It has been estimated that 40% of individuals with severe Alzheimer’s lose an unhealthy amount of weight. It used to be thought that depression, inability to concentrate on more than one food at a time, and an inability to eat unassisted led to this drastic weight loss but in this study, they wanted to see if it could be related to something as relatively simple as being unable to see the food.

While it is known that memory problems are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, many people don’t realize that vision problems are also an issue among people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Alice Cronin-Golomb said

“If the information getting into their brain through their eyes is already degraded, how can you expect them to do much with that?”

The research team tested advanced Alzheimer’s patients’ level of food intake when they used the standard white plates and bright red plates. What they found was amazing and significant—patients eating from the red plates ate 25% more food than those eating from white plates! This relatively simple study has produced hands-on results that family members and care centers can easily implement. As one researcher put it:

“A woman came up to me and said that just the week before her mother had been in the kitchen trying to pour milk into a mug. The mug was white, the milk was white, and the countertop was white. She poured milk all over the place, and it wasn’t until the daughter heard me talk that it clicked in her mind and she understood her mother’s vision problem. It’s a great feeling to be able to give some information to someone that can make a difference. It’s not huge; we are not solving Alzheimer’s, but we are helping people in their daily lives.”  

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