Wageningen UR involved in smell and taste centre at the Gelderse Vallei Hospital

Published on
June 24, 2015

The first smell and taste centre in the Netherlands will be opening on Thursday 2 July at the Gelderse Vallei Hospital. Science and practice join forces in this unique centre. Patients with smell and/or taste disorders will receive expert information, a diagnosis and, where possible, treatment at this centre. The collaboration between the Gelderse Vallei Hospital and Wageningen University in the Gelderse Vallei Nutrition Alliance has made this centre possible.

Patients with a smell or taste disorder can be referred to the smell and taste centre by their GP or ENT doctor. In the Gelderse Vallei Hospital they then undergo various tests to discover the cause, after which they receive advice and a treatment plan suited to their needs. ENT specialist Wilbert Boek: “In many patients it isn’t possible to restore smell or taste but what we can do after extensive testing is to provide clarification. We also give the patients dietary and life-style advice that is appropriate to this serious handicap. Many patients showed interest in this centre while it was being set up. They will be the first to be approached in the coming months.”

Unique collaboration

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The Nutritional Alliance is proud this unique smell and taste centre can begin work. It brings together nutritional knowledge from Wageningen University and the clinical knowledge and practice present in the Gelderse Vallei Hospital. Kees de Graaf, Professor in Sensory Science and Eating Behaviour, says: “The Division of Human Nutrition possesses considerable knowledge on the relationship between smell and taste and food intake and dietary patterns. The experimental results obtained from patients will be used anonymously in scientific studies into smell and taste disorders. The Gelderse Vallei Hospital can use the results to further improve the care of patients with smell and taste disorders.”

Scientific research and innovation

The smell and taste centre is equipped with a unique collection of appliances. Patients receive smell and taste tests, an EEG/ERP investigation, an MRI scan and mouth and nasal cavity endoscopy. The MRI scanner and the EEG can be combined with the olfactometer at this centre, a unique feature in Europe. An olfactometer administers an odour to a patient, enabling the reaction in the brains to be measured. Some of the facilities have been made available by CAT-AgroFood at Wageningen UR.

Before patients visit the centre they fill in an extensive questionnaire. Wageningen University would like to use the data to analyse food intake and dietary patterns in patients with smell and taste disorders. Within the Nutritional Alliance there is close contact with companies and caterers in order to work on the development of food innovations which meet the requirements of people with smell and taste disorders.

Smell and taste disorders

Humans can smell at least 1 quintillion odours whereas only five or six basic tastes are distinguishable. Both taste and smell have an impact on eating habits, but in different ways. It is estimated that 250,000 to 300,000 people suffer from a smell and/or taste disorder. About 16% of the population has a reduced olfactory sense, and 5% of the population can no longer smell anything at all. A loss of taste occurs less often and is estimated to be present in 5% of the population. These disorders can be dangerous because, for example, it is difficult or impossible to smell a gas leak or a fire. By far the greatest problem for these patients is food-related, such as reduced taste experience, lack of appetite and an increase or decrease in body weight. That is why smell and taste disorders merit serious attention.