Nutrition Program May Decrease Depression in Patients with Dementia

March 4, 2013
nutrition program

Patients with dementia who engage in an individualized program that teaches proper eating habits show reduced symptoms of depression, researchers reported in the online February 28 Journal of Advanced Nursing. The study suggests that clinical nurse specialists could use this technique to treat residential patients with dementia who also display poor eating habits and depressive symptoms. 

Using a spaced retrieval program combined with Montessori-based activities, Hua-Shan Wu, PhD, RN, and Li-Chan Lin, PhD, RN, of the National Yang-Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan, sought to improve nutrition and, by doing so, reduce depression in residential patients with dementia. 

A group of 25 participants received 24 sessions of the spaced retrieval and Montessori program in a fixed format, and a group of 38 patients underwent the same intervention in a format that was tailored to their individual learning responses. In addition, 27 controls received routine care without the educational program. 

The investigators recorded nutritional assessment scores, dementia scores, and BMI prior to the start of the program, after program completion, and at three follow-up appointments at three-month intervals. 

Patients who received the individualized intervention showed a significant increase in BMI and nutritional assessment scores and a significant decrease in depression scores. However, although BMI and nutritional scores increased in patients who received the fixed intervention, depression scores did not decrease in this group. 

"It has been shown that spaced retrieval or Montessori-based activities can improve eating ability," said Dr. Lin. "We expect that this combined intervention can produce greater effects than spaced retrieval or Montessori-based activities can alone."


—Lauren LeBano



1. Wu HS, Lin LC. The moderating effect of nutritional status on depressive symptoms in veteran elders with dementia: a spaced retrieval combined with Montessori-based activities. J Adv Nursing. 28 Feb 2013;[Epub ahead of print].

2. Helping dementia patients remember to eat well improves physical and mental health [press release]. Washington, DC: EurekAlert; Feb 28, 2013.