Self-reported taste and smell alterations and the liking of oral nutritional supplements with sensory-adapted flavors in cancer patients receiving systemic antitumor treatment

Jacco J. de Haan*, Remco J. Renken, Yvette Moshage, Danielle A. Kluifhooft, Camille Corbier, Louise E. Daly, Helene Blanchard, Anna K. L. Reyners

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Purpose Taste and smell alterations (TAs and SAs) are often reported by patients with cancer receiving systemic antitumor therapy and can negatively impact food intake and quality of life. This study aimed to examine the occurrence of TAs and SAs and investigate the impact of TAs on overall liking of oral nutritional supplements (ONS) with warming and cooling sensations.

Methods Patients receiving systemic antitumor therapy completed a questionnaire on sensory alterations and evaluated overall liking of 5 prototype flavors of Nutridrink (R) Compact Protein (hot tropical ginger (HTG), hot mango (HM), cool red fruits (CRF), cool lemon (CL), and neutral (N)) on a 10-point scale via a sip test. Differences between patients with and without TAs were investigated using permutation analysis.

Results Fifty patients with various cancer types and treatments were included. Thirty patients (60%) reported TAs and 13 (26%) experienced SAs. Three flavors were rated highly with a liking score > 6 (CRF 6.8 +/- 1.7; N 6.5 +/- 1.9; HTG 6.0 +/- 2.0). Larger variation in ONS liking scores was observed in patients with TAs with or without SAs (4.5-6.9 and 4.6-7.2, respectively) vs. patients without TAs (5.9-6.5). TAs were associated with increased liking of CRF (Delta = + 0.9) and N (Delta = + 1.0) flavors.

Conclusions TAs and SAs are common in patients with cancer undergoing systemic antitumor therapy. Patients with TAs were more discriminant in liking of ONS flavors compared to patients without TAs, and sensory-adapted flavors appeared to be appreciated. The presence of TAs should be considered when developing or selecting ONS for patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Early online date25-Feb-2021
Publication statusPublished - 25-Feb-2021


  • Taste alterations
  • Smell alterations
  • Chemotherapy
  • Oral nutritional supplements

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