Neural Networks Involved in Abnormal Eating in Dementia

The researchers studied 49 participants with dementia (19 with bvFTD, 15 with semantic dementia, and 15 with Alzheimer’s disease) ranging between the ages of 62 to 66 from November 2013 to May 2015, and compared their eating behavior with 25 healthy controls.

The participants’ caloric intake and food preferences were measured with an ad libitum breakfast test meal, and changes in eating behavior were measured using the Appetite and Eating Habits Questionnaire (APEHQ) and the Cambridge Behavioral Inventory (CBI). Participants with bvFTD had a mean intake of 1344 calories compared with 710 for Alzheimer’s disease, 573 for semantic dementia, and 603 for the control group.

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Sucrose preference was determined with a dessert test in which participants ranked the sweetness of 3 desserts and identified which they liked the best. Participants with bvFTD and semantic dementia showed a preference for the sweetest dessert. However, the authors noted that “the groups did not differ with regard to the perceived sweetness of the desserts, indicating that increased sweet preference in patients with FTD is not simply the result of an inability to perceive sweetness but rather likely involves changes in preference for sucrose as a nutrient.”

The researchers also used Voxel-based morphometry analysis of whole-brain 3-T high-resolution brain MRI to determine the gray matter density changes across the groups and their relations to the participants’ eating behaviors.