Background: Despite recognition that weight loss is a problem in elderly persons with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD), increasing their food intake remains a challenge. To effectively enhance intake, interventions must work with individuals' changing needs and intake patterns. Previously, the authors reported greater food consumption at breakfast, a high-carbohydrate meal, compared with dinner, and shifts toward carbohydrate preference at dinner in those with increased behavioral difficulties, low body mass index, or both.
Methods: Thirty-four nursing home residents with probable AD who ate independently participated in a randomized, crossover, nonblinded study of two nutrition interventions. The intervention described here included replacing 12 nonconsecutive "traditional" dinners with meals high in carbohydrate but comparable to traditional dinners in protein. Measures included weighed food intake, body weight, cognitive function (as assessed using the Severe Impairment Battery and Global Deterioration Scale), behavioral disturbances (as assessed using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory-Nursing Home Version), and behavioral function (as assessed using the London Psychogeriatric Rating Scale).
Results: Group mean dinner and 24-hour energy intake increased during the intervention phase compared with baseline, protein intake was unaffected, and carbohydrate intake increased. Increased dinner intake, attributable to intervention foods, was achieved in 20 of 32 of participants who completed the study and was associated with increased carbohydrate preference, poorer memory, and increased aberrant motor behavior. Those with low body mass indices were the most resistant to the intervention.
Conclusions: Providing a high-carbohydrate meal for dinner increases food intake in seniors at later stages of the disease who are experiencing cognitive and behavioral difficulties, possibly as a result of a shift in preference for high-carbohydrate foods.