Memory loss is often thought to be the key symptom of the mind-robbing disease. However, dementia is not a specific condition, but a syndrome of many symptoms linked to cognitive decline which is caused by an underlying disease process.

Depending on the exact cause of dementia, the first symptoms can vary. While the early stages of dementia forms like Alzheimer’s disease are often marked by memory loss, behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia is often underlined by “obsessive or repetitive behaviour” which can extend to food.

This means that something as simple as your eating preferences could indicate whether you’ve got frontotemporal dementia, HuffPost reports.

This type of dementia mainly affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which are responsible for your personality, behaviour, language and speech.   

Frontotemporal dementia affects about one in every 20 dementia patients, according to Dementia UK.

A study, published in the journal Neurocase, explains that this type of dementia is associated with a wide variety of abnormal eating behaviours such as extreme hunger, fixations on one kind of food, stealing from other people’s plates and even ingestion of inanimate objects.

Furthermore, people affected by the condition may refuse to eat anything other than one food. 

For example, the research paper described a “banana lady,” who ate nothing but bananas and drank nothing but milk for months before her death. An autopsy revealed that she had frontotemporal dementia.

Scientists aren’t fully sure why this occurs, but Marilena Aiello, who was involved in a systemic review of FTD, has shared one possible reason.

Aiello said: “It may involve an alteration of the autonomic nervous system, characterised by an altered assessment of the body’s signals, such as hunger, satiety, and appetite. Damage to the hypothalamus can cause a loss of inhibitory signals, causing behaviours such as overeating.

“There are probably sensory and cognitive factors that can complicate the picture… In patients who eat objects, for example, there is perhaps a semantic problem of recognising the object and its function.”

Other symptoms of frontotemporal dementia to spot

The NHS recommends looking out for the following red flag signs:

  • Personality and behaviour changes – acting inappropriately or impulsively, appearing selfish or unsympathetic, neglecting personal hygiene, overeating, or loss of motivation
  • Language problems – speaking slowly, struggling to make the right sounds when saying a word, getting words in the wrong order, or using words incorrectly
  • Problems with mental abilities – getting distracted easily, struggling with planning and organisation
  • Memory problems – these only tend to occur later on, unlike more common forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The health service recommends seeing a GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia.

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