Monday, May 27, 2024

Nutritional Deficiencies and Dementia

green beet leavesHow much thought do you put into nutrition? Do you give much consideration to the proper balance of nutrients and vitamins? Most of us know we should have a well balanced diet but do not give much thought as to what that means. Most problems caused by nutritional deficiencies will reverse themselves once the deficiency has been resolved. However, in some cases, there may be lasting damage especially if the deficiency has gone on for a long period of time. One of these changes is a person’s cognition or thought process. Many times, elderly people are believed to have Alzheimer’s Disease when really, it is a nutritional deficiency.

How Would You Know If You Have a Nutritional Deficiency?

Nutrition is defined as: pertaining to the quality of food or eating behavior that provides nourishment through absorption of food to body tissues. A nutritional deficiency occurs when the body does not absorb the necessary amount of a nutrient. Deficiencies can lead to a variety of health problems, such as problems with digestion or skin, stunted or defective growth, and even dementia.

The symptoms of a nutritional deficiency depend on which nutrient the body is lacking, but deficiencies can cause general symptoms. You may display symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Feeling faint, lightheaded or weak
  • Heart palpitations or trouble breathing
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Poor skin color
  • Menstrual issues (missed or very heavy cycles)
  • Hair Loss
  • Tingling and numbness in your joints
  • Poor concentration
  • Unusual food cravings

One could display all of these symptoms or only a few of them. If you have experienced prolonged periods of fatigue, weakness and poor concentration, make an appointment with your healthcare provider and be sure to discuss nutritional deficiencies.

Nutrition and Dementia

The scariest of the problems connected with a nutritional deficiency is dementia – and it is one of the most preventable types of dementia. Nutritional disorders, such as vitamin deficiencies, pellagra and protein-calorie malnutrition are metabolic causes of dementia. Metabolic causes of dementia refer to the chemical and physical processes involved in the body. Metabolism is the chemical process our body uses to transform the food you eat into the fuel that keeps us alive. Listed here are a few metabolic nutritional disorders that have been connected to mental decline and dementia.

Vitamin B12

Extensive research has been done on Vitamin B12 importance in preventing dementia; noticing that the frontal lobes of the brain decrease in size or simply become numb leading to mental disturbances and/ or behavioral problems. The loss of brain mass has been clearly identified as one of the physical effects of Alzheimer's disease.
Be sure to get the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin B12 through foods enriched with it such as meat, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products, shellfish, and organ meats. Many recommend that the best way to meet your body’s vitamin B12 needs is to eat a wide variety of animal products.

Some typical symptoms and diseases are: anemia, depression, weakness, fatigue or dizziness, headaches intestinal problems, constipation, loss of balance, numbness or tingling in extremities.

Vitamin B1

Known as Thiamine, Vitamin B1 is another common nutritional deficiency. B1 deficiency can lead to nerve and muscle damage and eventually affect the heart. Researchers have speculated that thiamine might help treat Alzheimer's Disease, however, more research is needed before it can be prescribed as a treatment.
Good dietary sources are pork and organ meat, whole-grain or enriched cereals and rice, wheat germ, bran, and rice. Most foods contain a small amount of thiamine.
There are a number of main symptoms associated with vitamin B1 deficiency, including: weight loss, weakness, irregular heart rate, memory and other aspects of the mind, and emotional disturbances.
Precautions: Because of potential side effects and interactions with medications, you should check with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements.


Pellagra is a disease that occurs when the body does not get enough niacin. Niacin deficiencies are common in elderly people. Pellagra (the disease of severe niacin deficiency) in its late stages can lead to death when left untreated. Once associated with what was called the “poor man’s diet”, Pellagra was common among poor people in the 1800’s because their diets consisted of foods that were not rich in niacin.

Good sources of niacin include red meat, fish, poultry, fortified breads and cereals, and enriched pasta and peanuts. The vegetable with the highest about of niacin is seaweed. If seaweed doesn’t appeal to you, other vegetables known to have moderate amounts of niacin are potatoes, peas, okra, parsnips, winter and butternut squash, asparagus and pumpkins.

Symptoms of Pellagra are described as the “four D’s”- diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia and death, which usually appear in that order too. Mild niacin deficiency symptoms will show signs of indigestion, fatigue, vomiting, depression and canker sores.

Protein Calorie Malnutrition (PCM)

Protein calorie malnutrition refers to an imbalance or deficiency of nutrients that can come from not eating enough healthy foods or by using up to many nutrients through your activities. Not eating enough healthy food leads to poor nutrition that leads to poor health. The three leading causes of malnutrition are poverty and lack of food, ignorance, and disease or substance abuse, such as alcoholism. PCM is also associated with chronic disease and increased morbidity and mortality. Disease and disorders that cause the body to use higher levels of protein than normal can also cause PCM. Malnutrition is not only found in poor countries. Shockingly around 1 billion people still suffer from PCM despite the great efforts to improve nutrition around the world.

Meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds are all protein rich foods. It's a good idea to change up your protein foods.
Symptoms of PCM include lost of muscle mass, slow heartbeat, difficulty maintaining body temperature, low energy level, and wounds not healing properly. Your hair becomes dry and thins while the skin becomes dry, rough and cool to the touch. Diarrhea is common, blood pressure and respiratory rates may slow. Death will result if the disease continues to progress as organs begin to fail.

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