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Does Proper Nutrition and Dieting Influence the Development of Dementia?
The problem of dementia every year becomes more evident and dangerous for public health and attracts more attention. The most common form of it, Alzheimer’s disease, is one of the acutest illnesses of the 21st century, which causes the high mortality of the elderly population. Unfortunately, no sufficiently effective and proven means for its treatment have been developed so far. Often, when it comes to combating dementia, first of all, attention is focused on what medicines to take and when, how to accommodate the life of the patient, and what activities are better to reduce the cognitive deficit. When nutrition is mentioned, usually it is a general diet that improves brain metabolism and regulates the work of the intestine. However, there are data and observations, according to which some food products can significantly affect the development of dementia, prevent it, and even help to cure the disease.
First of all, it is essential to understand the general significance of a proper diet for dementia and such its form as Alzheimer’s disease. It is not a secret that healthy food and drink always contribute to the health of a person, but in the case of the AD, they play a crucial role. An improper diet or malfunction in food can lead to such severe problems as dehydration, headaches, a high risk of urinary tract infection, and increased confusion. Especially balanced nutrition is vital at a late stage of the disease when it should be regular and with a higher caloric value (“The Importance of Eating and Drinking”). Thus, people with dementia may experience significant difficulties regarding their diet, which not only does not contribute to maintaining the level of health but also dramatically depresses the work of all organs and systems of the patients’ organism.
While focusing on the issue of nutrition in more detail, it is possible to identify several specific problems associated with a violation of diet in patients with dementia. In addition to the already mentioned weight loss, on the contrary, there may be excessive weight, which is a significant discomfort for patients with this disease. The main reason for it is often the excessive use of high-calorie and sweet food. Moreover, in some cases, the preferences for food change significantly in patients with dementia, and they stop eating what they used to like. In addition to the fact that in this situation they can refuse healthy and necessary products, there can also be a decrease in appetite. In turn, a reduced appetite disrupts the whole process of nutrition and leads to significant deterioration in health (“Why Nutrition Is Important in Dementia – SCIE”). These problems should be taken into account when caring for people with dementia and when drawing up their diets.
However, in addition to following a regular and proper nutrition, it can be improved to help slow down the progress of development and prevent the disease. To date, it is known that a variety of types of dementia are associated with problems of the heart and blood system, so some dietary advice aimed at strengthening them tend to help with such brain disorders. Regardless of the type of dementia, it is recommended to reduce salt intake. It is also worth considering that most of the daily consumed salt is contained in a variety of processed foods. It is worth minimizing the consumption of fats as well. In particular, it is about the refusal of animal fats contained in butter and meat and trans fat being in vegetable oil, hence in vegetable shortening and pastry. On the contrary, Omega-3 acids, which are mainly found in fish, are useful for brain cells and prevent the development of dementia. Also, the antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, are helpful in reversing the oxidation process in the organism. The highest content of these vitamins is in vegetables and fruits. Besides, it is essential to maintain a sufficient level of vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid to reduce the risk of developing dementia (“Can Diet Prevent or Slow Down Dementia – SCIE”). The total set of all these recommendations is observed in the Mediterranean-style diet, which proves its effectiveness in the fight against the disease in recent times.
For those who, unfortunately, have already faced dementia, and especially the Alzheimer’s disease, some basic nutrition tips can help improve the overall condition and the level of the patient’s health. First things first, the diet should be varied and balanced. It must contain low-fat dairy foods, and, of course, fruits and vegetables. It is also necessary to maximally limit the consumption of harmful fats, which lead to the accumulation of cholesterol. Besides, it will be helpful to reduce the use of refined sugar, which is most often found in processed foods and bakery products and does not contain vitamins and useful elements. Finally, it is necessary to cut down foods with high sodium and eat less salt (“Food, Eating and Alzheimer’s”). While following the described nutrition tips, the health of patients with different forms of dementia tends to improve.
Nevertheless, even taking into account all the recommendations and tips for a healthy diet, it is challenging to determine what amounts of food should be consumed or not to use the necessary products so that the substances contained in them contribute to the fight against the disease. In this situation, the guide for a daily nutrition can help. To prevent the development of dementia, one needs to eat at least five servings of different fruit and vegetables a day. The main dishes should contain enough carbohydrates, and therefore it is better to use wholegrain rice, pasta, and potatoes. Milk drinking products should be replaced with an alternative from soy and choose a meal with low fat and sugar content. As acceptable proteins, it is allowed to eat fish, eggs, and beans about two servings per week. Also, it is significant to drink a lot, about 6-8 glasses of liquid a day, and consume oil as little as possible (“Diet and Nutrition • Dementia Care”). Following these instructions can help to adhere to a healthy and most important proper diet without difficulties.
As can be seen, the proper and balanced nutrition can significantly influence the development of dementia, help to prevent it and noticeably improve the overall health of the patients. On the one hand, it is important not to allow deviations in the diet of dementia patients, so that this does not lead to deterioration of their condition and the appearance of such severe problems as weight loss or gain, the risk of urinary tract infection, dehydration, and increased confusion. However, it is possible to improve the diet of patients by including or excluding from it certain foods that can contain both useful and necessary and harmful substances. Comprehensive adherence to recommendations and following a daily nutrition guide can significantly improve the health of people with dementia and help fight this disease.
“Can Diet Prevent or Slow Down Dementia – SCIE.” Scie.org.uk, 2017, https://www.scie.org.uk/dementia/living-with-dementia/eating-well/diet.asp.
“Diet and Nutrition • Dementia Care.” Dementia Care, 2017, http://www.dementiacare.org.uk/services/need-some-advice/living-well-with-dementia/maintaining-a-healthy-lifestyle/diet-and-nutrition/.
“Food, Eating and Alzheimer’s.” Alz.org, 2017, https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-food-eating.asp.
“The Importance of Eating and Drinking.” Alzheimer’s Society, 2017, https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20029/daily_living/10/eating_and_drinking/2.
“Why Nutrition Is Important in Dementia – SCIE.” Scie.org.uk, 2017, https://www.scie.org.uk/dementia/living-with-dementia/eating-well/importance-of-nutrition.asp.