Craving for sweet foods can uncover dementia

When dietary preferences change and cravings for sugary foods set in, it could be a lesser-known symptom of dementia. In addition to craving foods with a high glycemic index, there may also be binge eating, excessive water or alcohol consumption, and even attempts to consume non-food items. (Photo: Getty)

As we age, it becomes increasingly important for us to keep track of the changes that occur in our body, as these can often indicate larger health issues. When it comes to treating age-related conditions, such as dementia, our best bet is to catch the symptoms early.

Although we are probably already aware that the lapses in our memory may indicate a problem changes in our food preferences They can be, too, especially if you suddenly have a craving for sweets.

In fact, science suggests that people with a specific type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia or FTD (also known as Pick’s disease) may have sudden attacks of hunger and, in particular, craving for sweet foods

Many people with this type of dementia develop a series of unusual behaviors that they are not aware of. For example, personality changes, inappropriate behavior in public, impulsiveness, apathy, loss of empathy, repetitive or compulsive behaviors, and changes in diet.

“Frontotemporal dementias are manifested by a combination of behavioral and/or language symptoms (with aphasias similar to that diagnosed at Bruce Willis). Patients with frontotemporal dementia are often misdiagnosed as having psychiatric disorders or other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease,” explains of the Doctor Angel Milan, specialist in Neurology at the Navarra University Clinic (CUN).

Regardless of the form of presentation of frontotemporal dementia, there is eventually a deterioration in the daily functioning of the person, who becomes increasingly dependent to carry out day-to-day activities.

For this reason, any small sign that can help identify the disease will help slow down its development and rate of progression, since the duration of the disease is highly variable, and is highly influenced by the form of frontotemporal dementia suffered.

It may be that the person becomes less social, or their behavior in social situations becomes inappropriate or rude. They can be hyper-sexual and uninhibited in front of other people, and it can also happen that they lose interest in personal hygiene.

Other less well-known situations that can reveal frontotemporal dementia is that eating habits change, causing these patients to start eating more, have cravings for sweet things, or feel the need to have things in their mouths such as cigarettes or drinks.

In this sense, there is evidence of how this dementia affects food. Symptoms such as loss of appetite which in turn can cause difficulties with food, eating and nutrition.

Therefore, you have to be careful since, in general, memory and language are not affected in the early stages of this form of frontotemporal dementia, as stated in the medical literature, and as explained by Family Physicians (SEMERGEN).

On the contrary, what happens to those who suffer from this degenerative condition of the brain is that they may forget how to chew and swallow or they may be distracted by their surroundings.

Dementia can also cause some people to overeat or even develop an insatiable appetite. And also it is very likely that they will not experience the taste as before, which causes a change in preferences, making them opt for heavy or sugary foods.

Studies show that dementia attacks the area of ​​the brain, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for self-control in food choices.

Some works, like this one in the New EnglandJournal of Medicine, have proven how dementia causes alterations in eating behavior; and even without the pre-existing condition of diabetes, sugar and dementia are still directly linked and that higher than normal blood sugar can contribute to an elevated risk of dementia.

Researchers believe that preference for sweets has to do with the way our brains use serotonin (known as the “happy” hormone). This is an important symptom to be aware of because, Although most people are diagnosed with dementia in their 60s, FTD can appear much earlier.

“Most people with frontotemporal dementia begin to show symptoms between the ages of 45 and 65,” account to Woman’s World Andrew E. Budson, associate director of research at the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center. In an article published in Psychology Todaythe expert recounts his experience treating people with FTD, and talks about this ‘obsession’ with sugary foods, calling it a telltale sign of a brain problem.

“Some people compulsively perform repetitive movements, such as turning the light on and off every time they pass by it,” Explain. “Others show a marked change in food preferences (often preferring sweets), eat too much, smoke or drink alcohol excessively.”

Other signs of dementia that should not be ignored are:

  • Memory loss

  • Difficult to focus

  • Finds it difficult to perform familiar everyday tasks, such as being confused about the correct change when shopping

  • Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word

  • Being confused about time and place

  • Humor changes.

In the face of any of these changes, the most important thing is to go to the doctor and get a diagnosis, since when it comes to treating dementia, early diagnosis is key.

With this in mind, we all need to make sure we monitor our brain health by paying attention to any and all changes in our behavior and preferences, as even something seemingly unrelated like food cravings could help us identify a disease.

The Primary Care doctor must provide adequate medical and emotional support to the patient and his family. Once you have a diagnosis, it is important, as a family, to make a care plan for the person, taking into account the doctor’s suggestions and the person’s needs. As in all dementias, non-pharmacological therapies and education by the family are recommended, since a family that knows how to deal with this type of dementia can greatly improve the quality of life of the affected person. It is also important to seek help from Patient Associations.

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