Patients with cirrhosis or renal failure who experience changes in taste and smell may have worse quality-of-life (QOL) and may be more likely to exhibit cognitive impairment than those who do not exhibit these sensory changes, according to investigators.
Clinicians should screen for changes in taste and smell among patients at risk of cognitive changes, and offer nutritional interventions to support body weight and QOL, reported principal investigator Jasmohan S. Bajaj, MD, AGAF, of Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, and colleagues.
“Cirrhosis is linked with poor nutrition, which could partly be due to anorexia in hepatic encephalopathy (HE) and coexistent renal failure,” the investigators wrote in their abstract, which Dr. Bajaj presented in November at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
“We wanted to measure how changes in the brain in cirrhosis affect patients’ abilities to smell and taste, and study how that affects their quality of life,” Dr. Bajaj said in a written comment.
To this end, the investigators conducted an observational study involving 59 participants, among whom 22 were healthy, 21 had cirrhosis, and 16 had renal failure requiring dialysis.
“Prior studies individually have shown changes in taste and smell for these two organ failures,” Dr. Bajaj said. “We studied them together as well and linked these to quality of life and individual cognitive tests.”
Of note, individuals with past or current COVID-19, or with current or recent alcohol or tobacco use, were excluded.
Compared with healthy individuals, participants with cirrhosis or renal failure had significantly worse performance on a taste discrimination test, with perceptions of sweet and sour most affected.
Cognitive measurement with Psychometric Hepatic Encephalopathy Score (PHES) and Stroop tests showed that scores were worse for patients with disease than those without. Taste discrimination significantly correlated with both cognitive test scores, regardless of HE or dialysis, whereas smell only correlated with the Stroop test.
Multivariable analysis revealed that better PHES scores and smell discrimination were linked with better taste discrimination. Similarly, better PHES scores and taste discrimination contributed to better smell discrimination. Eating impairment was associated with worse Stroop scores and worse olfactory-related QOL, suggesting that sensory changes, cognitive changes, and eating behaviors were all correlated.
“Health care providers ought to be alert to changes in patients’ eating habits, diet and weight as their liver and kidney disease worsen and as their brain function changes,” Dr. Bajaj said. “Nutritionists and others may be able to assist patients with a healthy diet and suggest ways to improve patients’ reports of their quality of life. Taste and smell are just a few aspects of the complicated assessment of health-related quality of life, brain dysfunction, and nutritional compromise in cirrhosis. We need to be mindful to not just focus on these aspects but to individualize care.”
Adrian M. Di Bisceglie, MD, hepatologist and emeritus professor of internal medicine at Saint Louis University, said the study was “well done,” and called the findings “an interesting little tidbit” that would probably not change his practice as a physician, but could be valuable for designing nutritional interventions.
In an interview, Dr. Di Bisceglie explained that a well-balanced diet with adequate caloric intake can help slow the muscle wasting that occurs with the condition, but creating a tasty menu can be challenging when patients are asked to restrict their sodium intake as a means of reducing fluid retention.
“Salt contributes substantially to the enjoyment of food,” Dr. Di Bisceglie said.
Although the study did not specifically report the salt level in patients’ diets, Dr. Di Bisceglie said the findings highlight the need for low-salt strategies to improve palatability. For example, he suggested increasing umami, or savory flavor, as this can be accomplished without adding a significant amount of salt.
When asked if changes in taste or smell might be used as simple screening tools to detect cognitive impairment in patients with cirrhosis, Dr. Di Bisceglie said that this might be “possible,” but is probably unnecessary.
“There is an easy bedside test that we’ve been using for decades [to predict hepatic encephalopathy], which is reading,” Dr. Di Bisceglie said, noting that patients with cognitive deficits often describe reading paragraphs repeatedly without comprehending what they have read.
The investigators and Dr. Di Bisceglie disclosed no conflicts of interest.
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/s/viewarticle/taste-and-smell-changes-affect-qol-and-cognition-patients-2023a1000udf?src=rss
Publish date : 2023-12-06 16:59:46
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