Sunday, September 02, 2007

Weight loss and dementia

Women who develop dementia are much more likely than men to be involved in making meals, and, therefore, it is likely a loss of interest in food preparation and eating during the prodromal phase of the disease has an impact on their weight.
---David Knopman, MD Mayo Clinic

Calorie deprivation prolongs life. Skinny yeast cells, fruit flies, threadworms, monkeys, and women are more likely to become skinny old yeast cells, fruit flies, etc. The problem, however, with skinny old ladies is that they are more likely to be demented when old than their fleshier colleagues.

Mayo Clinic investigators reported in Neurology* that women who lost cognitive functioning lost significantly more weight in the decade prior to the dementia diagnosis than a control group of aging women who maintained brain function through the years. Interestingly, there was no such correlation for old guys getting goofy, suggesting that the problem was not so much eating well when presented with food as buying and preparing the food period.

Dr. Knopman notes that this obseravation is not useful for diagnosis as "the weight loss was so subtle and so small and nonspecific." So skinniness does not beget dementia, but rather the first glimmering of dementia (a loss of interest in usual activities such as food preparation) leads to weight loss.

Shoot, I lost interest in food preparation after number one child left home. I am completely enthusiastic, however, about food prepared by others.
Knopman, D et al. Neurology. 2007;69:739-746.


Mauigirl said...

It's an interesting correlation. I think it's more than just the lack of interest in food preparation. (I don't have interest in food preparation most of the time either but it doesn't stop me from eating takeout pizza).

What I'm wondering is whether it's a change in taste perceptions leading to a dislike of foods that used to be enjoyed, that may lead to weight loss. I think I've also read that an early sign of Alzheimer's is loss of sense of smell or ability to identify odors (and of course, being able to smell is linked to taste).

I've noticed my mother-in-law picks at her food, doesn't always recognize what she's eating so won't eat it, or else says something doesn't taste good when it's something she used to like. She has also started putting ketchup on things, just as her own mother did as her Alzheimer's Disease worsened. (It got to the point that Grammy wouldn't eat anything if it didn't have ketchup on it; maybe it's the only way she could taste anything).

My mother, on the other hand, has lost substantial weight over the past five or ten years, but she's stayed sharp as a tack. I think in her case it's because of chewing difficulties; plus she smokes!

Jean said...

I was going to ask your thoughts about loss of sense of smell in Alzheimer's patient's - another sign post a few years ago when he couldn't smell turkey dinner cooking.
Interesting post.

30 years from Darling said...

I realize this is an old post. i'm reading back through your blog. It's hard.

7 year ago, Mom was 100 pounds overweight. Diagnosed with diabetes, she lost 100 lbs. in 18 months. GREAT!

But now, she's 15 pounds underweight, and not remembering to eat if she doesn't have an alarm set. She gets to the scale at the doctor's and goes through a whole routine to be weighed (that she did when she was overweight) because "it's bad enough as it is you know!"

Um, it's not! Not anymore!