While most dieters battle with portion size and calories, a recent study by Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab suggests that it’s not the amount you eat - but the colour contrast between your dinner plate and food that plays a key role in diet-controlled weight-loss.
The Plate Size and Colour Suggestibility study discovered a link between food intake and the colour of the plate - and found people subconsciously eat more when the food blends in with the crockery it’s placed on.
This theory was discovered after researchers enlisted the help of 60 participants, who were invited to a buffet serving pasta with tomato sauce and Alfredo (a creamy, white coloured sauce).
The volunteers were randomly given either a white or red plate and were instructed to help themselves to the food. After serving their food, portion size was measured.
Researchers discovered that those who served Alfredo pasta on white plates ate between 17% and 22% (32 grams) more than those who ate the white, creamy pasta off a contrasting red-coloured plate.
The study suggests that the plates with a contrasting colour to the food, sends a 'wake-up call' to the brain that makes the person more aware of the portion size.
Researchers hope that this discovery could pave the way for more effective weight-loss plans.
“If your goal is to eat less, select plates that have high contrast with what you plan to serve for dinner. Want to eat more greens? Try serving them on a green plate,” researchers Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. Koert van Ittersum said in a statement.
The study authors also noted that the colour of the tableware may also play an important role in eating smaller portions.
“If replacing dinnerware is difficult, remember that tablecloths are important, too. By selecting a cloth with a low-contrast to the dinnerware, you can minimise the effect of the Delboeuf illusion and lower the likelihood of over-serving.”
The optical illusion, also known as a the ‘Delboeuf illusion’, was discovered in 1865 and documented the perceived difference in the size of two identical circles when one of the circles was surrounded by a much larger circle and the other one was surrounded by only a slightly larger circle.
The link between this illusion and portion size was first highlighted in 2006 when researchers discovered a link between plate size and the amount of food consumed (people given bigger plates take bigger portions because the food appears smaller on the plate than it actually is).
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