Progression of Dementia=Sugar Cravings=Painful Arthritis

While pretty hard to imagine any logical connection between Dementia, Sugar, and Arthritis Pain… once you read more below, it will make much more sense! Thankfully, more research is being done and I certainly look forward to learning more about it, but at least for now there are great tips and solid advice for easy ways to lessen the pain.

Below are excerpts from a blog on theNew York website StepsHomeCare.  This may explain a great deal if you have noticed your loved one – who may now be showing signs of dementia – also feeling the need for sweets more often / several times a day.

The changes in the brain during the progression of Dementia can lead to intense cravings for sugary foods. Intense cravings for sweet and sugary foods can be a symptom, a tangible clue, to the changes happening in the brain.

  • As dementia progresses, some people have diminishing taste and do not experience the full pleasure of tasting food as they once did. However, the “sweet” taste buds remain the strongest over time, leading to a heightened desire to eat sweets. 
  • Brain areas affected in Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to express insulin receptors, and insulin levels as well as insulin receptor signaling are thought to be reduced in Alzheimer’s.  In Alzheimer’s, a drop in brain insulin or a lack of insulin cell sensitivity can lead to intense cravings for high-calorie foods. 
  • Studies  show that dementia attacks the area of the brain – prefrontal cortex – responsible for self-restraint in food choices. This may lead to the instant gratification of choosing sweet and sugary foods. 

The drop of insulin in the brain not only increases sweet cravings, but can also lead to the death of brain cells, especially in the parts of the brain responsible for memory. Thus, researchers have dubbed Alzheimer’s as a third type of diabetes.  Promising new findings from recent clinical research trials have shown a stabilization of cognitive impairment in subjects with early Alzheimer’s following treatment with insulin inhaled through the nose.

The problem is the hidden sugars in packaged and pre-made foods. Even foods we think are healthful such as granola bars, pasta sauce and fruited yogurt, have added sugars leading to the average person consuming 300 extra sugar calories daily. Bottom line – Beware of processed foods.

  1. Pack in protein. Since carbohydrates are quickly digested, they provide a fast burst of energy that feels good, but the feeling does not last very long. Hence, why you crave more sugar so soon. Protein digests more slowly and leaves you feeling fuller longer. 
  2. Think Finger Foods. Cut protein foods into small pieces to make eating easier if your loved one can no longer use utensils. 
  3. Hide the Vegetables. Puree cooked or raw vegetables and add them to recipes.  Cooked and pureed cauliflower added to a tomato sauce or raw pureed vegetables like spinach and kale taste sweet when added to fruit-based smoothies. 
  4. Avoid Alcohol Before a Meal which can decrease dietary self-restraint. Or serve the alcoholic beverage or glass of wine at the end of the meal after they have already eaten protein and vegetables. Many wines and drinks have more than 2 teaspoons of natural sugars per serving including a glass of a sweet white wine or a bottle of beer.
  5. Switch To Whole Fruit, Not Juices and Syrups.  It may take a day or two, but soon you will realize the intense burst of sweet in a fresh strawberry tastes just as sweet as the strawberry breakfast bar you had a few days before. Beware that Sweeteners in the form of Honey, Molasses, Natural Sugar-in-the-Raw and Maple Syrup act like added sugars, quickly digestible and raising blood sugar quickly.