A prospective cohort study of the effects of adjuvant breast cancer chemotherapy on taste function, food liking, appetite and associated nutritional outcomes

Anna Boltong, Sanchia Aranda, Russell Keast, Rochelle Wynne, Prudence A. Francis, Jacqueline Chirgwin, Karla Gough

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Background: 'Taste' changes are commonly reported during chemotherapy. It is unclear to what extent this relates to actual changes in taste function or to changes in appetite and food liking and how these changes affect dietary intake and nutritional status. Patients and methods: This prospective, repeated measures cohort study recruited participants from three oncology clinics. Women (n = 52) prescribed adjuvant chemotherapy underwent standardised testing of taste perception, appetite and food liking at six time points to measure change from baseline. Associations between taste and hedonic changes and nutritional outcomes were examined. Results: Taste function was significantly reduced early in chemotherapy cycles (p<0.05) but showed recovery by late in the cycle. Ability to correctly identify salty, sour and umami tastants was reduced. Liking of sweet food decreased early and midcycle (p<0.01) but not late cycle. Liking of savory food was not significantly affected. Appetite decreased early in the cycle (p<0.001). Reduced taste function was associated with lowest kilojoule intake (r = 0.31; p = 0.008) as was appetite loss with reduced kilojoule (r = 0.34; p = 0.002) and protein intake (r = 0.36; p = 0.001) early in the third chemotherapy cycle. Decreased appetite early in the third and final chemotherapy cycles was associated with a decline in BMI (p = <0.0005) over the study period. Resolution of taste function, food liking and appetite was observed 8 weeks after chemotherapy completion. There was no association between taste change and dry mouth, oral mucositis or nausea. Conclusion: The results reveal, for the first time, the cyclical yet transient effects of adjuvant chemotherapy on taste function and the link between taste and hedonic changes, dietary intake and nutritional outcomes. The results should be used to inform reliable pre-chemotherapy education.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere103512
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

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