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Study Reports Dementia Patients Face Under-Nutrition Problems

Update Date: Feb 12, 2014 01:41 PM EST

Dementia patients face several problems due to their deteriorating mental health. According to a new study, researchers reported that one of the biggest issues that dementia patients face is under-nutrition. The findings suggest that health care providers and caretakers must be aware of these nutrition problems for the sake of the patients' wellbeing.

For this study, the research team, headed by Professor Martin Prince from the King's College London Global Observatory for Ageing and Dementia Care, compiled a report that focused on nutrition for dementia patients using available data. The researchers examined existing studies on dietary factors that could either increase or decrease a person's likelihood of developing dementia during the later years. The information revealed that excessive weight gain or weight loss during mid-life could increase risk of dementia. However, the researchers stated that weight loss appears to have a greater effect after dementia has settled in. The researchers reported that 20 to 45 percent of dementia patients experience dramatic weight loss over one year.

"For older people, undernutrition is arguably a greater health concern than obesity, and it is particularly common among people with dementia. This is a neglected area of research with important implications for quality of life, health and functioning. While weight loss in dementia is very common and can be an intrinsic part of the disease, it could be avoided and we should be doing more to tackle the problem," Professor Prince, from King's College London, stated according to Medical Xpress.

Based from their findings, the researchers drafted a list of recommendations. First, the team stated that the health and social care sectors should consider adopting nutritional health care standards, such as tracking weight, assessing diets and assisting with eating behaviors, for dementia patients. Second, family and professional caretakers could benefit from any kind of training that teaches them about helping dementia patients meet nutritional standards. Third, the researchers stressed that more research studying the relationship between nutrition and dementia patients should be carried out.

The report, "Nutrition and dementia: a review of available research," can be accessed here. The report was commissioned by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) and Compass Group.

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