The four dietary changes that may signal dementia – what to look for

Dementia is a progressive brain condition whereby parts of the brain become irreversibly damaged. There are many different causes of dementia, and many different types. The symptoms are dictated by the cause of dementia and the region of the brain affected.

An uncommon form of dementia is frontotemporal dementia, which, as the name suggests, primarily affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

As the NHS explains, these areas are responsible for controlling language, behaviour, and the ability to plan and organise.

Frontotemporal dementia does not initially affect the part of the brain responsible for memory so this symptom does not usually appear until later on.

The most common signs of frontotemporal dementia involve extreme changes in behaviour and personality.

A number of distinct behavioural signs involve a change in dietary preferences.

According to Mayo Clinic, this usually takes the form of overeating or developing a preference for sweets and carbohydrates.

Other dietary presences include:

A number of distinct behavioural signs involve a change in dietary preferences.According to Mayo Clinic, this usually takes the form of overeating or developing a preference for sweets and carbohydrates.Other dietary presences include:Eating inedible objectsAn obsession with eating certain foods.Other behavioural and personality changes include:Being insensitive or rudeActing impulsively or rashlyLoss of inhibitionsSeeming subduedLosing interest in people and thingsLosing drive and motivationInability to empathise with others, seeming cold and selfishRepetitive behaviours, such as humming, hand-rubbing and foot-tapping, or routines such as walking exactly the same route repetitivelyA change in food preferences, such as suddenly liking sweet foods, and Poor table mannersCompulsive eating, alcohol drinking and/or smokingNeglecting personal hygiene.

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How to respond

According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia.

“If you’re worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment with a GP and perhaps suggest you go with them,” explains the health body.

The GP can do some simple checks to try to find out the cause of your symptoms, and may refer you to a specialist for further tests, it explains.

How to reduce my risk

Research is ongoing to understand the causes of frontotemporal so earlier interventions can be taken to reduce the risk.

Unfortunately, certain risk factors associated with frontotemporal dementia cannot be easily modified.

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, one in every two or three people with the disease could have a family history.

“Overall, around one in ten cases of FTD are thought to be caused by a faulty gene passed down in families – also known as familial frontotemporal dementia,” says the charity.

Early research does suggest unhealthy lifestyle habits may influence your risk too.

A study published in the Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders Extra journal assessed smoking and obesity together as risk factors for frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ninety patients with frontotemporal dementia and 654 patients with Alzheimer’s disease were compared with 116 cognitively healthy elderly individuals.

While there were no clear associations between smoking and frontotemporal dementia, obesity was a shared risk factor for both forms of dementia.

“The best way to lose weight is to make long-term changes to diet and physical activity that result in a steady rate of weight loss,” says the NHS.


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