Changes to the sense of taste and smell are a common side-effect experienced by patients being treated for cancer. The HungerNdThirst Foundation has now signalled a possible negative impact on patient recovery and quality of life, due to the effect these changes have on food intake and food preferences. The foundation is focusing its attention on finding ways to improve the sensation of taste for cancer patients (and ex-patients) by modifying food, for example. The foundation has asked the Science Shop to help answer certain research questions in order to provide patients and care professionals with suitable practical information on taste and smell changes and the impact of these changes on nutrition.
For many people, daily meals are a social event. But if changes to your sense of taste or smell mean you can no longer enjoy your food, the social context will inevitably change too. Being unable to taste, or tasting things differently, changes the entire experience of eating
The changes in the sense of taste and smell in cancer patients are usually a temporary side-effect of cancer and/or the treatment. That’s why the foundation is keen to uphold the idea of eating ‘normal food’. In other words, it wants to help patients to experience a normal taste of food within their common diet as much as possible. This can be done by changing the composition or structure of the products, for example. The foundation has asked the Science Shop the following questions:
> Which knowledge and insights from the field of food technology can be used to find practical solutions for an impaired sense of taste in cancer patients (and ex-patients)?
> To what extent can specific flavour enhancers be developed (on the basis of the 5 basic flavours) to improve the taste perception of cancer patients (and ex-patients)?
In order to answer these questions, more information about changes to the sense of taste and smell in cancer patients is needed. A number of sub-projects was set up to this end:
> A study on current literature on the nature of changes to the sense of taste and smell in cancer patients: what causes these changes?
> Research into changes to the sense of taste and smell in colon cancer patients, focusing on subjective and objective measurements of the taste and smell perception of cancer patients.
> Research into solutions that may boost the taste perception of cancer patients: is it possible to develop products/menus that meet the needs/requirements of patients (incl. practical implementation)?
> Analysis and identification of practical implementation methods (such as a fact sheet with recipes) for chefs in hospitals and other care institutions.
More research: Sensory and metabolic drivers of eating behaviour