Dietary preference for sweet foods in patients with dementia

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1990 Sep;38(9):999-1007. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1990.tb04423.x.


Using a telephone survey, patients with probable Alzheimer's disease (n = 31) and vascular dementia (n = 14) were compared with elderly normal controls (n = 43) in preferences for different foods. Patients with Alzheimer's disease had a greater preference than normal controls for relatively high-fat, sweet foods and for high-sugar, low-fat foods, but did not significantly differ in preference for other foods, including those high in complex carbohydrates and protein. Vascular dementia patients showed a similar pattern, not significantly different from that for Alzheimer's patients. Results did not consistently support a hypothesis that increased sweet preference is a nonspecific form of disinhibited behavior related to declining mental status, nor was a hypothesis relating sweet preference to serotonin activity within the brain consistently supported. Results provide preliminary evidence that craving for sweet food may be a significant part of the clinical syndrome of dementia, but further research is needed to delineate the psychological and biological mechanisms accounting for it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / therapeutic use
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Dementia, Vascular / diagnosis
  • Dementia, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Dementia, Vascular / psychology*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Dietary Carbohydrates*
  • Dietary Fats
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male


  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats