To review the benefits of oral feeding options in people with dementia.
DESIGN: Systematic literature search with review of potentially eligible studies by two independent investigators.
SETTING: PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, CINAHL, and PsychINFO literature indices between January 1990 and October 2009.
PARTICIPANTS: Clinical trials with random or nonrandom control groups were included if they reported on clinical outcomes of oral feeding interventions for people with dementia.
MEASUREMENTS: Investigators abstracted data from included studies using a structured instrument. Studies were graded on quality and potential bias, and overall strength of evidence was summarized.
RESULTS: Thirteen controlled trials provided data on use of supplements for people with dementia, and 12 controlled trials tested assisted feeding or other interventions. Studies provide moderate-strength evidence for high-calorie supplements, and low-strength evidence for appetite stimulants, assisted feeding, and modified foods to promote weight gain in people with dementia. The few studies measuring function or survival showed no difference.
CONCLUSION: High-calorie supplements and other oral feeding options can help people with dementia with feeding problems to gain weight; they are unlikely to improve other outcomes. These treatments can be offered alone or in combination as an alternative to tube feeding.