A recent study suggests that milk protein can alleviate chemotherapy side effects.
The study suggests that chemotherapy and other cancer therapies can wreak havoc on the taste buds and olfactory senses, depriving recipients of the intricate interplay between taste and smell that is critical to grasping flavours and enjoying foods. Over time, taste and smell abnormalities (TSA) can lead to a loss of appetite and anorexic behaviours, compromising patients' ability to recuperate from the disease.
The researchers investigated the feasibility of lactoferrin, a highly bioactive protein found in saliva and milk, as a treatment for TSA.
Duncan, one of the lead researchers said, "The underlying molecular mechanisms of TSA are not well-understood. The prevailing symptom described by patients undergoing chemotherapy is a persistent metallic flavour or aftertaste, with or without food intake. This can last for hours, weeks, or even months after the completion of treatments."
As a consequence, cancer patients suffer poor appetite, weight loss, depression, and diminished nutrition, all of which are detrimental to recovery. Although TSA is widespread and a frequent complaint of cancer patients, until now, there have been no established therapies that reliably prevent or treat this problem.
"Our research shows that daily lactoferrin supplementation elicits changes in the salivary protein profiles in cancer patients. Changes that may be influential in helping to protect taste buds and odour perception," said Duncan.
"By suggesting lactoferrin as a dietary supplement, we can reduce TSA for many patients, restoring their ability to enjoy foods during a time in which nutrition can play a key role in their recovery," he added.
According to the researchers, this study could help us develop TSA-targeted biomarkers and strategies for improving the quality of life during chemotherapy. "Cancer patients and their supporting family and friends may again find comfort in enjoying a meal together," Duncan stated.
The team believes that their findings will make it possible for cancer patients to taste foods properly and to enjoy a healthier appetite, enabling more optimal nutrition during a critical period of recovery. Lactoferrin supplementation also enhances the expression of salivary immune proteins, which may help reduce oxidative stress and resulting side effects. Oral infections, such as thrush, also may be diminished.
The findings appeared in the Journal- Food & Function.