Weight loss is a common problem in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Reduction in body composition and nutritional status complicates health matters. Deficiencies increase symptoms and may contribute to cognitive and psychiatric decline. Further, reduced weight diminishes quality of life as it contributes to chronic infection, increased pressure wounds and poor wound healing. Thus, offsetting weight decline and enhancing nutritional status is important in maintaining the health status of Alzheimer’s patients.
In the controls for the above mentioned study, those receiving nutrition education fared better than the control group, but not as well as those receiving nutritional supplement. This may be in part because while education is important for both the patient and the caregiver, it is often hard to translate information into practice. Preparing meals that are nutritionally adequate and well tolerated can be challenging when faced with decreased appetite, medication issues, swallowing difficulties and mood changes. This is where supplementation, generally in the form of a nutritional beverage can improve the situation.
The study also cited previous works that indicated that receiving 500 calories per day via supplementation eliminated deficiency states and improved convalescence. Further, groups receiving supplementation have been shown to have increased immunity. It is suggested that this is due to an adequate intake of essential macro-nutrients as well as the enhanced presence of antioxidants and other micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) in products used as supplements.
Thus, in choosing a supplement, it may be of benefit to look at more than basic caloric needs. A quality product can make a significant difference. Participants in this study received Ensure with Fos® and fared well. While this is an adequate product, I would encourage those needing or providing supplementation to seek out a local health food store or contact a qualified practitioner for recommendations. A wide range of natural source vitamins and minerals as well as quality source protein are key factors in choosing a product. Further, products containing a carbohydrate source other than glucose syrups and similar products may be of benefit. Quality carbohydrates may improve taste and texture of the product, thus improving tolerance. Further, they contain nutrients and fiber which improve satiety and serve as more than empty calories. It should also be noted that these products are intended to enhance nutritional status and not serve as a substitute for proper whole food meals.
Works cited: A prospective study of nutrition education and
oral nutritional supplementation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease