Smell and taste changes in healthcare

Supporting patients suffering from smell and taste changes

Many patients suffer from changes in smell and taste: for example patients suffering from cancer or chronic illness, or due to medication use. We are investigating how changes in sense of smell and taste affect eating behavior and what happens in the brain. Also other factors that may influence eating behavior are studied, such as certain dietary restrictions like reduction in salt intake.

PhD candidate Elbrich Postma is studying smell and taste changes in various patient populations. In her research at Wageningen University & Research she uses:
•    questionnaires about food preferences and eating behavior
•    smell and taste tests to measure the sense of smell and taste
•    MRI scans to visualize brain activity during the administration of odors. It is also possible to visualize the structures involved in the processing of odor stimuli.

Projects and results

Taste and healthcare

Together with  HungerNdThirst Foundation and Wageningen Science Shop Postma conducted a project on smell and taste alterations in cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy. Factsheets were developed provide tips and advices on dealing with smell and taste alterations to use in daily life and health care. The factsheets aimed at physicians, nurses, dieticians and patientsMore info >>>>

In the cardiology department, the effect of a salt-restricted diet on the taste perception and nutritional intake of patients with heart failure is investigated. Tasty and healthy alternatives are being looked at, so that patients remain in good nutritional status and can enjoy their food.

Oncological menu

Together with caterer Sodexo, Postma has mapped the taste preferences of cancer patients in the oncology center of the Gelderse Vallei Hospital. The chefs at the hospital have developed a special menu. This contains, among other things, a sample board where cancer patients can try out different products, tastes and textures. Because taste preferences are very personal, it is important to offer patients different options. This allows them to choose the products that best suit their wishes and needs. As a result recipe cards have been developed to stimulate patients to eat varied meals at home.

Smell and taste center

The Smell and taste center, an initiative of doctor Wilbert Boek van Gelderse Vallei Hospital and Prof. dr. Kees de Graaf of Wageningen University & Research brings together research and care in the field of  smell and taste. The aim is to achieve optimal care and treatment for people with smell and taste disorders. The expertise of the Smell and taste center on the sense of smell and taste is unique in European healthcare.

Contact person

Elbrich Postma (WUR/ZGV)

Contact us


Prof. Kees de Graaf (WUR), Dr. Sanne Boesveldt (WUR), Dr. Wilbert Boek (ZGV), Jos van Die (ZGV), Elbrich Postma (WUR/ZGV)


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