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Placebo Effect: Does the color of the capsule influence?

The placebo effect has been the object of several studies that seek to understand its effectiveness in enhancing the treatment of multiple disorders. Regarding the set of factors that influence the action of drugs, the colors of the capsules in which they are produced have become a determining factor, since they have the capacity to produce different effects on people’s perception and expectation of the success of a treatment. Understand how the color that coats the pill can be used to generate sensations and enhance the desired effect of a drug, acting as a true placebo effect.

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But after all, is the placebo effect real?

The placebo effect is nothing new in the health area and its practice in the medical world is very old, since our mind is a powerful tool when we give opportunity. The idea that our brain is able to convince our body that a fake treatment, that is, that does not present any chemical developed specifically for the improvement of a certain symptom, in fact works and has beneficial effects is indeed real.

In this context,placebos can be used for various purposes and in multiple ways, so numerous medical treatments resort to its applicability in order to relieve pain in patients, treat anxiety and depression, improve concentration and coordination capacity, among others. In addition, its use has also been seen in order to potentiate the effects of certain supplements in athletes and, with this, allow better results to be achieved.

However, we emphasize that in order for the placebo effect to be actually produced, there is a need for that patient to believe in the benefits that will be enjoyed by him, since perception can be defined as the initial or intuitive interpretation of a stimulus based on the sensory information collected, while expectation is an opinion formed about something that can materialize based on perception. Thus, there is a direct relationship between the expectation, the perception of the action of the placebo and its efficiency.

In relation to medical treatments and the placebo effect, it is not a question of contesting the existence of a therapeutic effect specific to a medicinal product or supplementation, but of recognize that the prescription of a given drug alone inaugurates a sequence of psychological events, linked to our central nervous system, which play an important role in the sensation of improvement of symptoms.

Does the color of the capsule matter?

Did you know that there is a relationship between the colors of the pills and their expected effectiveness? The study attested that color is a key feature in identifying and perceiving the placebo effect and in medication choice. Each color would correspond to some kind of efficacy, among them the sedative, stimulant, anxiolytic, pain relief and hallucinogen. Thus, the results can be considered as follows:

  1. Blue color: relationship with the word calm. This, in turn, explains its association with sedative efficacy, being the second highest color for anxiolytic efficacy and the lowest for stimulant efficacy.

  2. Red color: associated with activity, stimuli, arousal, anger, aggression, and power. This, in turn, explains why red was consistently ranked as the highest for stimulant and hallucinogenic efficacies and, in contrast, ranked as the lowest for sedative and anxiolytic.

  3. White color: was mainly associated with purity and calm. It also ranked as the most effective for anxiolytic efficacy and pain relief, being the second highest for the sedative efficacy category (behind the blue color).

  4. Yellow color: this color was mainly associated with energy, happiness, and warmth. Yellow was the second best choice for stimulant and hallucinogenic efficacy.

  5. Green color: did not present any strong association with any of the efficacy, and may be due to its association with health rather than medications or among the efficacies included in this study.

Thus, from the data presented, we can conclude that the colors impact on the perception of the action of the drug and, consequently, on the efficacy felt by the patients. Therefore, the appearance of the pill goes far beyond what we can imagine, and there is a direct relationship between coloration and assimilation by the central nervous system of the placebo effect.

Clinical practice

In a practical way, using colors to potentiate a desired result in a given oral treatment can be an interesting strategy. In this way, you health professional can, when requesting that your patient handle some compound that presents physiological benefits, use in the coating of the tablet the colors that best correspond to the possible desired effects to be obtained. In addition to being a possible tool for the patient to have a better perception of the efficiency of that manipulated compound, the coloring of the tablet can also generate a positive impact on the continuity of the medical prescription, thanks to the belief that it will be more successful.

Bibliographic references

Article: Understanding color associations and their effects on drug efficacy expectations . Amawi RM, Murdoch MJ. Understanding Color Associations and Their Effects on Expectations of Drugs’ Efficacies. Pharmacy (Basel). 2022 Jul 13;10(4):82. doi: 10.3390/pharmacy10040082. PMID: 35893720; PMCID: PMC9326722.

Watch the video The Placebo Effect on Sports Nutrition on our Youtube channel.

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