Objectives: To examine the prevalence and associations of altered eating patterns in dementia sufferers.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Psychiatric services and a memory clinic.
Sample: 124 patients with DSM-III-R dementia.
Measures: The Geriatric Mental State Schedule, the History and Aetiology Schedule, the Cornell Depression Scale and the CAMCOG. Additional standardized questions were asked about eating patterns in the month prior to the study.
Results: Information concerning eating patterns was obtained from 105 of the 124 patients: 21% had increased food consumption, 22.1% had decreased food consumption, 2.9% tried to eat inedible substances, 11.4% had an increased preference for sweet things, 7.6% became more fussy about their food choices and 4.8% became less fussy. Decreased food consumption was significantly associated with less severe cognitive impairment and was related to RDC major depression in some patients. An increased preference for sweet things showed an association with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Increased food consumption was probably heterogeneous. Neither increased food consumption nor an increased preference for sweet foods was associated with the severity of cognitive impairment.
Conclusion: Altered eating patterns are common in dementia sufferers.