Patterns and Associates of Hyperphagia in Patients With Dementia

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This study examined patterns and associates of excessive eating (hyperphagia) in a community-based registry of patients with dementia. From patients enrolled in the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Patient Registry (n = 439), 39 were identified with excessive eating reported on the Behavior Symptom Checklist at some time during their illness. They were matched for age, gender, duration of disease, and Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) score to “normal eaters.‘’ Annualized weight change was determined based on weight from the 6 months before the evaluation to weight 6 months after the evaluation. Annualized weight change scores were not significantly different between excessive eaters and normal eaters nor between wanderers and non-wanderers. In cross-sectional analysis, univariate modeling suggested age at onset, GDS, and Mini-Mental State Examination score to be significant predictors of excessive eating. Using multivariate logistic model with backward elimination, only age of onset and GDS were retained as associates of excess eating. Rater type also emerged as a significant predictor for excessive eating with family raters reporting this behavior in 16% of patients compared to 5% for other raters. In χ-square analyses excessive eating was associated with greater frequency of wandering, unpredictable behavior, inappropriate dressing, inappropriate bodily concerns, and threatening self-harm. Associates of excess eating were subsequently examined separately in wandering and nonwandering excessive eaters. Logistic modeling suggested that among nonwanderers, patients who were younger but more severely demented were likely to have reported excessive eating. These results suggest hyperphagia to be present in approximately 10% of a community-based cohort of patients with dementia and associated with increasing functional decline. Excessive eating does not appear to arise from memory dysfunction, but for wanderers may result from needing increased caloric intake because of increased activity levels. Thus, for wandering excessive eaters, it may be appropriate to endure the eating to ensure appropriate caloric intake. Non-wandering excessive eaters were younger, had greater dementia severity, and had more unpredictable behavior. They may have dementia with prominent frontal lobe involvement and may respond to any food stimulus respective of hunger. Restricting food exposure may be an effective management intervention for them.

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