The effect of Alzheimer's disease on nutrition in relation to taste, smell, and memory

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Virginia Tech


Alzheimer's disease (AD) kills about 120,000 adults each year (1), perhaps ranking as the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in the United States (2). Progressively through its three stages, AD patients demonstrate an inability to identify familiar smells, lose weight, and develop malnutrition. This study was undertaken to compare the ability of AD patients verses non-AD patients concerning food identification and its potential influence on food intake. Another objective of the study was to assess whether an improved AD patient/caregiver relationship could improve the probability that the AD patient will accept more food items as a result of an enhanced relationship with the caregiver.

Ten food items were used in each testing. Each patient was given a list of four food items to pick from when smelling and/or tasting each test sample. A response was required, regardless of whether or not the food item was correctly identified. Three separate tests were conducted for each patient, each a week apart, by three different administrators with a different third of the control and experin1ental patients until each had tested all of them.

The data showed that AD patients have lessened food identification skills when compared to non-AD patients. Patient caregivers were able to attain the best results in toto (70.8%); almost double the results from the nurse coordinator (33.3%) and the researcher (33.4%), thus supporting the theory that the closer the patient/caregiver relationship, the greater the probability that the patient will accept more food items.