Aim. The aim of this paper was to investigate to what extent parkinsonian symptoms, including mild dysphagia and other eating problems, could influence the choice of consistency and the amount of food intake and if this could be related to weight loss as an expression of the underlying neurodegenerative process.
Background. Previous studies show that patients with Parkinson's disease tend to lose body weight even early during the disease.
Design. The design was a longitudinal prospective study.
Methods. Twenty-six free-living Parkinson's disease patients and 26 age- and sex-matched controls were investigated twice, with one-year apart, with focus on Parkinson's disease symptoms, as well as swallowing function. Intake of food items and food consistency were assessed by food records, completed over three consecutive days at each investigation.
Results. In patients with weight loss, motor symptoms, problems with activities of daily living and problems with eating, related to motor symptoms, increased and they had more dysphagia compared with their controls. They consumed lower amounts of fluid and solid food on both investigated occasions, compared with their controls. Multiple regression analysis showed that weight loss was associated with female gender, eating difficulties related to activities of daily living and preference towards soft food, but negatively correlated with age.
Conclusion. Parkinson's disease patients with weight loss seemed to avoid solid food, partly because of eating difficulties. Eating problems, as well as weight loss, could be because of the underlying disease, even when it is not at an advanced stage.
Relevance to clinical practice. Caring for patients with Parkinson's disease should not only include medical treatment, but also support for adequate food intake to prevent weight loss.