Dementia is a cluster of symptoms associated with brain damage that requires around-the-clock support in the later stages. It is important to be on the lookout for symptoms in your loved one because recognising it early enough can help you to implement steps that prolong quality of life. There are more than 400 different types of dementia so it can be hard to identify the specific type one has.
Distinctive symptoms uncovered
Research attempting to shed further light on frontotemporal dementia has also uncovered a wide-ranging of abnormal eating habits associated with it.
According to a review published in the magazine Neurocase, frontotemporal dementia is associated with a wide variety of abnormal eating behaviours such as hyperphagia, fixations on one kind of food, even ingestion of inanimate objects, making an already difficult situation even worse.
The systematic review by SISSA Researcher, Marilena Aiello, in collaboration with Vincenzo Silani (IRCCS Istituto Auxologico Milan) and Raffaella Rumiati, SISSA professor and coordinator of the iNSuLa laboratory (Neuroscience and Society), aimed to provide an insight into the brain mechanisms that produce these usual symptoms.
There are many kinds of disorders described in the literature, ranging from a simple increase in appetite, to uncontrolled overeating, lack of satiety, changes in food preferences and ingesting objects.
There have been other rather abnormal behaviours related to food observed in the literature too, such as stealing food from other peoples’ plates.
What explains the link?
From an analysis of the studies in the review, there is a link with certain areas of the brain, including the orbitofrontal cortex and most probably the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that regulates the interaction between the amount of food consumed and energetic homeostasis, which refers to stability, balance, or equilibrium within a cell or the body.
“The origin of food anomalies in frontotemporal dementia is likely due to many factors,” said Aiello.
She continued: “It may involve an alteration of the autonomic nervous system, characterised by an altered assessment of the body’s signals, such as hunger, satiety, and appetite.”
What should I do if I recognise the symptoms?
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia.
“If you’re worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment with a GP and perhaps suggest you go with them,” advises the health body.
As the health site notes, the GP can do some simple checks to try to find out the cause of your symptoms, and may refer you to a specialist for further tests.
“It’s usually very helpful to have someone at the consultation who knows you well and can give the specialist another perspective on your symptoms,” it adds.