Nutrition is important to a person’s well-being, and researchers are now viewing diet as a key component of health in dementia patients. A report released on February 11, “Nutrition and Dementia,” highlights the importance of eating well throughout life, but especially when a person has been diagnosed with dementia. Professor Martin Prince of King’s College London led the research team for the report, which was commissioned by the Compass Group and Alzheimer’s Disease International; it is meant to be an overview of recent research and the vital but overlooked link between mental health and diet.
Dementia has been identified by the World Health Organization as a public health priority. Together with Alzheimer’s Disease International, WHO issued a report in 2012 to raise awareness about dementia and Alzheimer’s. WHO estimates that 35.6 million people in the world currently have dementia. This figure is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. Stigmatization and lack of awareness are still prevalent when dealing with dementia, and the report wanted more attention to be given to the disease, its progression, and prevention.
This is what “Nutrition and Dementia” aims to do for diet. The report explains that in the three to six years before clinical onset in dementia patients, weight loss rapidly advances. Although undernutrition is a concern for all elderly people, it is more common in people who have dementia. Neurodegeneration influences a person’s sense of taste and smell; cognitively, a person may have difficulty obtaining food, cooking, and planning meals. Combined, these risk factors negatively impact a dementia patient’s diet, especially when they develop in the early stages of the disease, potentially even before diagnosis.