How to enjoy food without taste and smell?  |  Coronavirus

How to enjoy food without taste and smell? | Coronavirus

COVID is not over for me, launches Mars Delgado, who lives in Toronto and contracted the virus in March 2020. Until July of that year, the disease was at its height, before the symptoms subsided for several months. However, in October he was again admitted to the hospital.

Between these relapses, I already noticed that some things did not completely return to normal. One of those main things is my sense of taste and smell. »

Quote from Mars Delgado

In Europe, Dr. Jérôme Lechien, an ENT surgeon working in France and Belgium, has participated in and even carried out several studies with patients such as Mars Delgado.

Prevalence among COVID patients

Prior to the advent of the Omicron variant, loss of smell was present in 60-86% of cases of mild and moderate forms of the disease (which themselves account for 90% of all forms), Dr. Lechien noted at the time. However, taste loss was less common.

Since then research (New window) considered more specifically the cases of COVID-19 identified during the Omicron wave and believes that the prevalence and severity of COVID-19-related olfactory and tasting impairments has declined significantly with the advent of the Omicron variant, but still remains above 30%.

Dr. Jérôme Leschen in a white coat and with a stethoscope around his neck.

Dr. Jérôme Lechen, ENT Surgeon at CHU Saint-Pierre in Brussels and at the Foch Hospital in Paris

Photo courtesy of Dr. Jérôme Lechien

According to Dr. Lechien, the vast majority of patients recover in less than a month, but 20% of them still suffer from complete or partial loss of smell after a month. Between 5 and 10% of symptoms persist after six months, while a small proportion (between 1% and 5%) still show symptoms after a year.

And in addition to disability, these symptoms can be dangerous, the specialist emphasizes. Aromas are the result of a combination of smell and taste, so the loss of smell and taste affects the nutrition of many patients, he adds.

Some patients eat less, lose weight, and also have depressive symptoms because, in many cases, food contributes to happiness. »

Quote from Dr. Jérôme Lechen, ENT Surgeon, University Hospital Saint-Pierre in Brussels and Foch Hospital in Paris

The problem can be even worse for people with eating disorders like Mars Delgado.

Mars Delgado in an interview with Radio-Canada on camera.

Mars Delgado contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and says he still has problems with loss of taste and smell.

Photo: Radio Canada

I have a much better relationship with food, but suddenly I don’t know anything else.Mars says. Sometimes I was hungry, I started cooking without feeling anything, which also means that I burned a lot of dishes, but it was time to eat, without any taste.. Mars claims to have lost motivation.

As soon as I put the cookie in my mouth, it crumbled and I spit it out, feeling like I was eating dust. »

Quote from Mars Delgado

And it’s not just COVID-19 patients who are affected by these sensory disturbances around the world. British chef Ryan Riley knew this long before the pandemic hit the world, when his cancer-stricken mother couldn’t enjoy her food due to treatment.

Find flavor without flavors

After her mother’s death, the author and cook wanted to honor her memory and use her skills and experience to help other patients undergoing chemotherapy.

He teamed up with chef and food stylist Kimberley Duke and Professor Barry Smith, founder of the University of London Center for the Study of the Senses, to create life Kitchen, non-profit organization that offers cooking classes and recipes to help these people.

Chef Ryan Riley is interviewed via videoconference.

Chef Ryan Riley worked for four months with taste experts, patients and his partner, Chef Kimberly Duke, to create a free recipe book for people suffering from, among other things, anosmia or parosmia.

Photo: Radio Canada

When the pandemic hit, with many infected people losing their taste and smell, Ryan Riley thought he could make his recipes available to everyone.

But he still had to adapt, he says. Some [patients COVID] suffered from anosmia, therefore a complete loss of smell, some from parosmia, therefore altered odors, emphasizes the chef, who wanted to create a cookbook that could suit all types of occasions. So this time, he and his team dived into a new study of Professor Smith’s COVID-19 patients.

Studies have shown that foods such as coffee, garlic or onions, eggs, and often meat, taste bad for people with parosmia. […] So we had to remove all those trigger ingredients. »

Quote from Ryan Riley, writer and chef

Texture, temperature and umami

We looked at texture, not just crunchiness or tenderness, but how food feels when you put it in your mouth.says Chief Riley. As well as the temperature, the feeling of cold and heat, and the level of acidity.

Of the five tastes we perceive—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami—the last one, which is probably the least known in Western cuisine, has also turned out to be very important.

It’s a very strong taste., assures Mr. Riley, who explains that it is found, for example, in parmesan cheese, soy sauce, meat juice or some mushrooms. Acidity is also used in many recipes. All those strong scents […] can stimulate the sensory receptors of our puck, but also ensure that you feel its texture.

In March 2021, after four months of development, the cookbook LifeKitchen, Taste and Aroma, was released as a free download (New window). Some recipes include spicy tomato soup with sesame seeds, to add a crunchier texture and pair with this hot dish, or one of the most famous, according to the chef, pineapple tacos. But the book also contains practical advice.

We don’t want to change people’s diets because, people, we are creatures of habit. Giving a lot of new recipes doesn’t necessarily translate into everyday life, so we especially wanted to give little tips, little tricks that can be incorporated into everyday meals. »

Quote from Ryan Riley, writer and chef

There is no recipe for a miracle, everyone has their own.however, the chef concludes.

Social connection and society

We wanted to provide the world with a science-backed resource to help them enjoy the pleasure at the table again, to help them get back to cooking, especially when you are aware of the mental health impact of getting together and eating together.Ryan Riley adds.

Mars Delgado agrees. In my Latin American culture, food is very important, so obviously there is a certain fear: could this loss of meaning cause me to lose touch with my family, with my country of origin?

Mars Delgado stands in front of a microphone with a cane in his hand.

Mars Delgado explains that being misunderstood by those who do not suffer from loss of smell or taste can sometimes increase feelings of isolation in some people who do.

Photo: Radio Canada

Mars Delgado is pleased to see that specialists from all disciplines are paying attention to this problem. But also emphasizes the importance of not neglecting the people who suffer from it, and that society show more compassion and forbearance.

I’ve been overweight for most of my life, and when I asked for help with my lack of appetite, I was told: isn’t that good? No, it’s not. I almost died of anorexia, but because I don’t look like a skeleton, my condition was not taken seriously. »

Quote from Mars Delgado

Then in conclusion: It is not easy to see how people pay little attention to something, because it seems small to them, but to someone else it is so important..

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