Taste alterations are often reported by cancer patients, especially during systemic anti-tumour therapy, with a negative impact on food intake and quality of life. Little is known about the relation between taste alterations and taste preferences. This study aimed to explore the occurrence of taste alterations (i.e. changes in taste perception or intensity) in patients receiving systemic anti-tumour therapy, and to investigate overall likings of oral nutritional supplements (ONS) with flavours designed to better address the needs of patients with taste alterations.
Fifty adult patients with cancer undergoing systemic anti-tumour therapy were recruited. Exclusion criteria were allergies/intolerances to ONS ingredients or coexisting morbidities affecting taste or smell. Participants filled out a questionnaire on taste alterations, and evaluated overall liking of 5 Nutridrink® Compact Protein on a 10-point scale via a sip test (hot tropical ginger, hot mango, cool red fruits, cool lemon and neutral). Permutation analysis was performed to investigate differences between patients with and without taste alterations.
Various types of cancer and treatments (n = 34 chemotherapy, n = 5 chemoradiation, n = 4 immunotherapy, n = 2 targeted therapy, n = 5 other form of systemic therapy) were observed. Thirty patients (60%) reported taste alterations. Overall liking scores were: cool red fruits 6.8 ± 1.7 (mean ± SD); neutral 6.5 ± 1.9; hot tropical ginger 6.0 ± 2.0; cool lemon 5.5 ± 2.3 and hot mango 5.5 ± 2.0. Larger variation in overall liking per product was observed in patients with taste alterations (range 4.9 - 7.0) versus without taste alterations (range 5.9 – 6.5). Posthoc analysis showed that taste alteration was associated with a difference in overall liking for neutral (Δ = 1.0; p < 0.05) and hot mango flavours (Δ = -1.1; p < 0.05).
More than half of patients undergoing anti-tumour therapy experienced taste alterations. Patients without taste alterations were less discriminant in liking score compared to patients with taste alterations. These findings indicate that the presence of taste alterations should be taken into account when selecting or developing ONS for cancer patients.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.
Danone Nutricia Research.
J.J. De Haan, A.K.L. Reyners: Studies support: Danone Nutricia Research. C. Corbier, H. Blanchard: Employee: Danone Nutricia Research. All other authors have declared no conflicts of interest.