Dementia: Early symptoms can impact food, craving and appetite – what to spot

Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia

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Dementia refers to a cluster of symptoms associated with brain decline. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Food, eating and cravings are lesser-known implications of the condition.

According to Alzheimer’s Association, taste buds can diminish when the disease takes hold. 

Researchers believe the brain produces insulin, like the pancreas, and insulin levels in the brain can drop, causing cravings.

This could also lead to weight gain and unhealthy eating patterns.

Dementia may cause some people to overeat or even develop an insatiable appetite.

Craving sweet foods may also be an early eating symptom.

Studies show that dementia attacks the area of the brain – prefrontal cortex – responsible for self-restraint in food choices.

Many people with frontotemporal dementia develop a number of unusual behaviours they’re not aware of.

“Frontotemporal dementia tends to start at a younger age than 65,” said the NHS.

“Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 45 to 65, although it can affect younger and older people.

“Many people with frontotemporal dementia develop a number of unusual behaviours they’re not aware of.”

Symptoms of the condition, according to the NHS, include overeating, a change in food preferences, and inability to empathise with others and a loss of drive and motivation.

Suddenly switching to like sweet foods and having poor table manners, could indicate the condition.

Main signs of dementia which should not be ignored include:

Memory loss

Difficulty concentrating

Finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping

Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word

Being confused about time and place

Mood changes.

Although there is no cure for dementia at the moment, an early diagnosis means its progress can be slowed down in some cases, so the person may be able to maintain their mental function for longer.

A diagnosis helps people with dementia get the right treatment and support. It can also help them, and the people close to them, to prepare for the future.

With treatment and support, many people are able to lead active, fulfilled lives with dementia. 

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