Oral nutritional supplements (ONS) are commonly prescribed to malnourished patients to improve their nutritional status. Taste and smell changes in patients with cancer can affect the palatability of ONS. The present study investigated: (1) the palatability of six ONS in testicular cancer patients before, during the first two cycles, and after chemotherapy; (2) the relation between the palatability and taste and smell function; (3) the metallic taste of these ONS.
Twenty-one testicular cancer patients undergoing first-line cisplatin-based chemotherapy participated. Two milk-based (vanilla; strawberry), two juice-based (apple; orange), and two yoghurt-based (vanilla-lemon; peach-orange) ONS were tested. A questionnaire was used to assess the palatability of ONS and to which extent the attribute 'metallic' was applicable. Taste and smell function were measured using taste strips and 'Sniffin' Sticks', respectively.
The palatability of ONS was highly variable among patients. The milk-based strawberry ONS was preferred most before, during, and after chemotherapy. The liking of the milk-based vanilla ONS tended to decrease over time (p = 0.053), whereas the liking of the other ONS remained stable. A higher smell threshold and a lower sour taste threshold were correlated to a decreased liking of the milk-based vanilla ONS. The two juice-based ONS tended to taste more metallic during than before chemotherapy.
Health care professionals and patients should be aware that the palatability of ONS can change over time. Regular structured contact between health care professionals and patients regarding the choice of ONS seems warranted.