This Eating Pattern Can Be A First Sign Of Dementia

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Dementia manifests in various forms, and emerging research suggests that specific eating patterns could be early indicators of a subtype known as frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Unlike more common forms of dementia, FTD primarily affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, governing personality, behavior, language, and speech. According to Dementia UK, approximately one in 20 dementia patients experiences this uncommon subtype.

Research indicates that abnormal eating behaviors, such as hyperphagia (excessive eating), fixations on a particular food, or even ingestion of non-food items, may be associated with frontotemporal dementia. In some cases, individuals with FTD may exhibit obsessive or repetitive behaviors related to food. For example, there are documented instances of patients solely consuming one type of food, often leading to weight gain.

Marilena Aiello, a researcher involved in a systemic review of FTD, explains that these abnormal eating behaviors can stem from factors like alterations in the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system plays a role in assessing signals related to hunger, satiety, and appetite. Damage to the hypothalamus, a region in the brain, may result in a loss of inhibitory signals, contributing to overeating.

While some individuals with FTD gain weight due to obsessive eating, others may lose weight because of a narrow and obsessive range of food choices. The exact origins of these food anomalies in frontotemporal dementia involve a complex interplay of sensory, cognitive, and neurological factors.

However, it’s crucial to note that hyperfixating on foods or eating non-food items isn’t exclusive to FTD. Healthy individuals with irregular eating habits may also display similar abnormalities, albeit with varying intensities. Conditions like pica, the desire to eat non-food items, can occur in pregnancy, and individuals with autism might exhibit hyperfixations on specific foods.

If these eating patterns are combined with other symptoms commonly associated with frontotemporal dementia, it may strengthen the suspicion of the condition. Other signs of FTD include personality and behavior changes, language problems, issues with mental abilities, memory problems, and physical symptoms like slow movements or muscle weakness.

If dementia is suspected, seeking medical advice from a GP is crucial for early intervention. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances for appropriate management and support.

Have you ever noticed abnormal eating patterns in yourself or someone else, and did it prompt concerns about dementia or other health issues?