Dementia can come in many forms—from vascular dementia to frontotemporal dementia to Alzheimer's disease—and each can affect the brain differently. And while all of the various types cause memory loss and changes in personality, each may also display its own signs and symptoms that can clue you or a caregiver into what's going on.
Researchers have found that one of these types, frontotemporal dementia (FTD), has a distinct symptom that may serve as an early warning sign. They say that individuals with this type of dementia "show a marked change in food preferences," including a particular desire for one particular type of food. Read on to find out which craving may tip you off to a dementia diagnosis—and what other symptoms to look out for.
Craving sweets can be a sign of dementia.
According to Andrew E. Budson, MD, associate director for research at the Boston University Alzheimer's Disease Center and a professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, craving sweets can be an early sign of FTD. He explained to Psychology Today that this particular form of dementia "often exhibits changes in food preferences, such as the desire to eat sweet foods."
Budson recounted a story he heard in a support group for the caregivers of dementia patients, which included this strange symptom. "He began to eat things—like a tub of ice cream or a whole box of cookies—in bed while I was trying to sleep," one woman told the group of her husband, who was later diagnosed with FTD. She also shared that he would eat "a box of cake mix, a tin of frosting," and other sweet items that would not typically appeal to him. A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients with FTD eat more sugar and carbohydrates—and are more likely to experience rapid weight gain—than those without neurodegeneration.