Olfactory loss- or loss of smell- reduces enjoyment in eating and cooking. The corresponding study was published in Foods.
Olfactory dysfunction is linked to a reduced quality of life. The most common complaint among those with the condition is reduced enjoyment of food. How different types of loss of smell affect quality of life has, until now, been unexplored.
For the study, the researchers recruited 271 people with olfactory loss, 251 with parosmia- loss of smell that occurs three months after COVID-19 infection, and 166 controls with an unimpaired sense of smell. Each filled out questionnaires detailing their cooking habits, food habits, sensory awareness, weight changes, olfactory function, and food-related quality of life.
After analyzing the responses, the researchers noted that those with olfactory dysfunction tended to have a lack of comfort and inspiration for cooking, as well as an inability to make new foods successfully. They further noted that food items were less familiar among those with olfactory loss and parasomnia than controls.
They also noted that parosmia was linked to a higher incidence of weight loss. However, they found no difference in food-related quality of life between participants with olfactory loss and parosmia.
The researchers concluded that meals should be adapted for those with a loss of smell and that these should include ingredients that stimulate other senses beyond smell. As an example, they recommended dried fruits, chili, menthol, and rapeseed oil as good options for providing alternative sensory stimuli.
They added that those with a distorted sense of smell should avoid coffee, mushrooms, butter, ginger, black pepper, and toasted bread as they may find these foods less pleasurable to eat. This, they noted, is because some of these foods strongly stimulate chemical senses that, in the absence of an aroma, can feel unpleasant.