Introduction Early postoperative nutrition is of clinical benefit. However, patients are often initially reluctant to eat after surgery. Dysguesia and alterations in food preference are often reported. We conducted a study to describe perioperative changes in taste and food preference with a view to being able to optimise food choices and thus improve intake.
Methods Patients undergoing colorectal surgery were recruited. Three sets of tests were conducted, pre-operatively and on post-operative days (POD) 1, 2 & 3. In Test 1, patients were asked to rate the palatability (Horrible-Nice, using Likert scales (0–100%)) of a nutritional supplement flavoured with ‘standard’ concentrations of the 6 core tastes (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, spicy & savoury). In Test 2, patients were shown photos of foods representative of the core tastes and asked to rate them in terms of appeal. Test 3, snack box containing representative foods of the core tastes were rated by patients. Differences from baseline were assessed using t-tests.
Results 31 patients completed the study, M:F = 21:10, median age of 72 (33–82). Test 1, enhanced taste from baseline was seen on POD1 (p < 0.01) for salty, sweat & spicy taste figure 1. Test 2, only salty food (popcorn) scored higher (p < 0.01) than baseline (figure 2) all other foods scored lower. Foods representing bitter and sour exhibited the greatest decline (40.4% for gherkins, 38.7% for grapefruit). Test 3, patients rated sweat (fudge) 63%, salty (crackers) 50% best at POD 1 (p < 0.01) and sour (gherkins) 22%, spicy (Bombay mix) 16% worst. With all 3 Tests, scores reverted to baseline by POD 3.
Conclusion After surgery patients rated sweat and salty snack foods greatest. This was confirmed by tests of palatability and appeal. Though while spicy and savoury palability tests scored highly patients did not find the snakes particularly desirable. Further work is required to explore patients food preferences post surgery.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared.