It is not uncommon for older adults to suffer from poor nutrition. Consequences from poor nutrition include skin fragility, falls, frailty, hospitalization, and higher risk for mortality. There has been some suggestion that poor nutrition is more prevalent among individuals who suffer from symptoms of mixed dementia. Moreover, these symptoms of poor nutrition tend to be progressive in nature, with weight loss being the most common sign preceding a diagnosis of dementia and rapidly progressing over the course of the disease.
Findings from previous studies have pointed to a number of dietary factors that may be linked with risk for developing dementia. The most convincing evidence lies in individuals who consume a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes a high proportion of fruits, cereals, fish, and vegetables. These studies suggest that individuals who adhere to the Mediterranean-style diet have a lower risk of both dementia and cognitive decline.
In terms of the link between excessive weight loss and dementia, the mechanisms are only partially understood. It seems that factors such as increased activity, reduced appetite, and disrupted eating and feeding behaviors play an important role in this relationship. In fact, some have suggested that disruption of appetite and metabolism may be an inherent feature of dementia.
There has been some suggestion that some dietary supplements may be beneficial for individuals suffering from dementia. Ginkgo biloba, for instance, has been shown to slow the progression of cognitive decline in individuals with mixed dementia. Coenzyme Q10 (which can be delivered synthetically as idebenone), alpha-lipoic acid, and acetyl-L-carnitine have all also been shown to have beneficial effects on symptoms among individuals suffering from dementia. In all studies examining the impact of dietary supplements, it seems like augmenting an individual’s diet early has the most beneficial impact on dementia symptoms. Findings examining the impact of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid demonstrated that these supplements had no significant benefit in terms of managing symptoms of dementia.
In terms of risk, some studies have suggested that a combination of vitamins C and E may reduce and individual’s risk for developing symptoms of dementia. Moreover, populations of adults with a higher intake of vitamin D have also been shown to have a lower prevalence of dementia.
If you have begun to notice any signs and symptoms of mixed dementia in yourself or someone you love, it is important to schedule an appointment with your doctor right away as early intervention can help slow the progression of the disease.
- Martin CR, Preedy VR. Diet and Nutrition in Dementia and Cognitive Decline. Academic Press: San Diego, CA 2015.
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