Smell has a big impact on how much food we like. Many people have lost, decreased, or altered senses of smell, according to recent research from Aarhus University, which may have an effect on their health and quality of life. Dr. Alexander Wieck Fjaeldstad, an associate professor, claims that losing or changing your sense of smell might have an impact on more than simply how you eat and prepare food. His study was only just published in the academic journal Foods, and he was involved in the founding of Denmark’s first smell and taste clinic.
According to Alexander Wieck Fjaeldstad, “Reduced enjoyment while eating and the social ramifications of it are very significant to patients and frequently have serious consequences for their quality of life.”
The research also reveals that 39% of people with severe scent disorders have weight loss at a considerably higher rate than the general population, which can be harmful to their health.
Getting cooking over with as fast as possible
The 692 study participants answered a questionnaire about cooking, aroma, weight changes, and sensory awareness. 271 people lost or had their sense of smell impaired, 166 people were in the control group, and 251 people had a distorted sense of smell (parosmia).
The study shows that people with a distorted sense of smell differ from the control group in terms of food preferences, cooking skills, and willingness to cook.
“The patients said they wanted to finish cooking as soon as they could. They no longer enjoy cooking as much as they once did, are less interested in cooking for others, and no longer have the inclination to explore new recipes. And less variation in food habits can affect health,” says Alexander Wieck Fjældstad.
Previous studies have also shown that the loss or distortion of the sense of smell can have consequences ranging from social insecurity and an increased risk of depressive symptoms to an increased risk of household accidents.
How to rediscover a sense of enjoyment
Fortunately, the recently released study reveals how introducing patients to foods with a variety of basic flavours, textures, and mouthfeels can improve their satisfaction. It is possible to adjust by focusing on other sensory inputs when a food scent emitted in the oral cavity is not detected by the smell receptors in the nose. In other words, the patient can have a better multimodal food experience, a more satisfying meal, and an overall higher quality of life by enhancing their eating experience with their other senses.
According to Alexander Wieck Fjaeldstad, “The patients find cooking difficult, but the study can help because it highlights which substances are unpleasant or nice when your sense of smell is affected.” For individuals with impaired senses of smell and taste, he recommends dried fruits, chilli, menthol, and rapeseed oil. When the sense of smell is impaired while eating these meals, the mouthfeel assists in providing sensory inputs.
Coffee, mushrooms, butter, ginger, black pepper, and toasted bread should be avoided, as these meals typically bring much less pleasure, in particular for patients with a disordered sense of smell. Due to a higher prevalence of distorted smell detection and the fact that some of these foods powerfully excite other chemical senses, it is unpleasant when the aroma is absent.
The consequences of a distorted sense of smell on cooking and which foods actually work for patients have not previously been focused on.
A common problem
To identify what we are eating, judge its freshness and edibility, and ultimately give us a sensation of delight, taste is a multi-sensory process in which each sense contributes with different notes that together culminate in a complex symphony. Few people understand the value of their sense of smell until they lose it.
However, after the Covid-19 outbreak, we have realised the significance of smell even more. More than 300 million Covid-19 patients worldwide account for over 65% of cases of odour loss. The loss or distortion may last for a long time for more than half of those people. Fifteen percent of the population has a reduced sense of smell. The problem increases with age and is often related to many well-known diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, and several neurodegenerative diseases. About two percent of Danes suffer from a complete loss of sense of smell.
Reference: “The Effects of Olfactory Loss and Parosmia on Food and Cooking Habits, Sensory Awareness, and Quality of Life—A Possible Avenue for Regaining Enjoyment of Food” by Alexander Wieck Fjaeldstad and Barry Smith, 8 July 2022, Foods.
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