Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate

The Christmas holiday season arrives with a cheerful and generous dose of the color red. Cheerful red lights and ornaments. Santa’s red suit. Beautiful red home décor and party favors. Many of us get out our special red Christmas themed place settings to enjoy for a few weeks.

But if you are trying to keep from overindulging in too many high calorie holiday treats, your choice of plate color could make a big difference.

A Boston University psychology study first published in 2004 found that eating food from a red plate could increase your calorie intake by 25 percent. That’s not what most of us want to hear when we are trying to keep that dreaded holiday weight gain in check.

But researchers concerned about the poor nutrition of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease turned this information to their advantage. Forty percent of these patients lose a dangerously unhealthy amount of weight. The researchers wondered if this information couldn’t be put to good use.

So Boston University bio-psychologist Alice Cronin-Golomb and her research partners conducted their own study in 2010. Sure enough, their findings confirmed the earlier study.

It turns out that the explanation is a very simple one. Progressive neurological diseases affect your vision in addition to your thinking and memory. People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease cannot process visual information like they used to. They lose depth perception and contrast. This vision loss is also sometimes true for other seniors who don’t have dementia.

Caregivers become frustrated when Alzheimer’s patients always seem hungry. Often they assume it’s because they forgot when they last ate, and think it must have been a long time because they can’t remember. Depression and lack of concentration have also been theories for poor eating and weight loss.

But it turns out that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease aren’t eating enough because they cannot always see all the food on their plate. Even when individuals are encouraged and assisted with eating, Alzheimer’s patients do not finish the food on their plates. It turns out simple vision loss and the inability to process visual information plays a role in Alzhemer’s patients’ reluctance to eat. If you can’t see your food, you can’t find it and you can’t eat it.

Healthcare and caregiving professionals who have learned about these findings are switching to using red dinner plates, bowls, and even coffee mugs.

If you are a caregiver struggling with this common challenge, why not give it a try? If you want to experiment, buy red paper plates. They are easy to find this time of year among the Christmas supplies. If it works for you, take advantage of the post-holiday sales to buy some red dinnerware sets at a great price.

For the rest of us who don’t need to increase our calorie intake, we can use these studies to help us avoid seeing the number on the scale creep up at this time of year. When attending parties, don’t put holiday treats on a festive red plate. Stick with white and your waistline may thank you come January 1st.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

LifeCycles is intended to provide inspiration and information only. If you are considering any health, dietary, exercise or lifestyle changes based on the information provided here, please seek advice from a qualified professional.
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is President and CEO of At Your Home Familycare in San Diego, California. In addition to her positions as entrepreneur, health care executive, educator, radio segment contributor and media guest, Edwards-Tate is also a wife, daughter, and dog lover. Read more  LifeCycles in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow At Your Home Familycare on Facebook and on Twitter @AYHFamilycare.
Please credit “Laurie Edwards-Tate for Communities at WashingtonTimes.com” when quoting from or linking to this story.
Copyright © 2011 by At Your Home Familycare

Leave a reply