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Dietary advice tips: (7) Alzheimer's disease

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The Pharmaceutical Journal Vol 264 No 7102p944
June 24, 2000 Clinical

Dietary advice tips:

(7) Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, primarily affects people over the age of 65 years. About 8 per cent of people over 65 have Alzheimer's disease, and the prevalence doubles every five years, with 30 per cent of the population over 85 being affected. The condition begins with cognitive disorders that gradually worsen. Other symptoms include orientation difficulties, loss of independence and disordered eating patterns. In addition, weight loss is common, which can lead to increased risk of infection, falls, skin ulcers, and, as a consequence, a deterioration in quality of life. It is therefore worthwhile helping to prevent or reduce these nutritional difficulties as much as possible.
Weight loss in Alzheimer's disease may be caused by reduced energy intake. As the disease progresses, patients experience reduction in functional capability, such that shopping, meal preparation and eating become more difficult. Weight loss may be caused by increased energy requirements due to agitation and stress, although the evidence for differences in energy expenditure between healthy people and those with Alzheimer's disease is limited.

  • To optimise nutrition in the patient, it is necessary to focus on both the carer and the patient.
  • Try to find what the patient eats. If she or he lives alone and appears to be anorexic or eats sporadically with few "proper meals," recommend a home help or services to bring meals into the home.
  • The diet should be varied, with bread, fruit or vegetables and dairy products at each meal if possible.
  • Meat, fish or eggs should ideally be consumed at least once a day.
  • Fluid intake should be liberal. Patients should be given as much liquid as they want.
  • Consider enriched foods or food supplements (eg, Complan, Ensure)
  • Deficiency of vitamin B12 and folate are associated with Alzheimer's disease, but whether this is a cause or an effect is not clear from available evidence.
  • A multivitamin/mineral supplement may be recommended.

This series of "dietary advice tips" is intended to be a reminder of the main points to be made by pharmacists when giving nutritional information to the public. The conditions included in the series are those where diet is a well recognised risk factor, those in which diet contributes to the management of the condition, and others for which patients may welcome sound dietary advice. The series is written by Dr Pamela Mason (a pharmacist with a postgraduate qualification in nutrition)

Dietary advice tips (1) Hypertension
Dietary advice tips (2) Arthritis
Dietary advice tips (3) Irritable bowel syndrome
Dietary advice tips (4) Migraine
Dietary advice tips (5) Eczema
Dietary advice tips (6) Gout
Dietary advice tips (8) Coeliac disease
Dietary advice tips (9) Osteoporosis

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20001924

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