Dementia symptoms: Red flag warning sign at dinner table

Dementia is a group of symptoms related to the ongoing decline of the brain. Most common in people over the age of 65, it can lead to issues with memory, as well as personality and behavioural changes.

Dubbed a ‘silent killer’, it is thought almost one million Britons are currently living with the condition. And this figure is expected to rise due to our ageing population.

Most of us are aware of some of the symptoms, with memory loss and speech decline being among the most common signs. However, what is perhaps less known is the fact the condition can also cause some changes to the way people eat.

Therefore, experts are warning of a very particular warning sign of dementia that might appear at the dinner table.

A craving for sweet foods could indicate that someone has dementia.

Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk , pharmacist Abbas Kanani from Chemist Click, revealed that an altered sense of taste can affect some people with the condition.

“The most common sign is an increase in cravings for sweet treats such as cakes and chocolates,” he said.

“Repeated preference for sweet foods, particularly softer textures like ice cream or pudding, are usually tempting because they are easier to eat for people who may experience difficulty chewing or swallowing as their dementia progresses.

“Sweet foods can become more appealing to a person with dementia because the condition can alter taste perception, leading to a preference for sweeter foods over others.

“Familiar sweet tastes and textures may also be a source of comfort. Positive memories and emotions associated with particular flavours, even if they have difficulty recalling specific events or experiences, can be a draw to certain sweet foods.”

This was backed by Doctor Johannes Uys, from the Broadgate General Practice in London.

However, he said it is not just a preference for sweet foods that can affect eating habits in dementia patients.

He explained: “Dementia can actually significantly impact your perception of taste as well as your flavour preferences.

“Alterations in the brain’s functioning caused by dementia affect your sensory processing, and this can manifest itself in various ways.

“While some might develop a preference for sweet foods, for instance, others might lose interest in eating, forget to eat, or lose the ability to recognise when they’re hungry or thirsty.”

If this is something that a loved one is experiencing, you might need to be extra careful when planning their meals.

Dr Hilda Hayo, CEO and chief admiral nurse at Dementia UK, advised: “People living with dementia may encounter changes in diet so it’s important to consider their likes and dislikes when supporting them to eat well.

“Changes in taste and other factors such as loss of appetite, can make it challenging for people living with dementia to follow specific diets.

“It is helpful to find out about any dietary routines or restrictions so you can support the person living with dementia to eat and drink as well as possible.”

A 2024 study by Vitality Life Insurance found that 79 percent of people were not aware that a craving for sweet foods could signal dementia – making it the least known potential symptom.

Other signs of dementia include problems with:

  • Memory loss
  • Thinking speed
  • Mental sharpness and quickness
  • Language, such as using words incorrectly, or trouble speaking
  • Understanding
  • Judgement
  • Mood
  • Movement
  • Difficulties doing daily activities.

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