Lost taste and smell of COVID-19? New cookbook aims to help

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One of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is loss of taste and smell. For some people, these symptoms can last for weeks. Now, a new cookbook aims to help people regain some of the joy of cooking and eating – even if the senses are still inhibited.
The cookbook, “Taste & Flavor,” was written by chefs Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke. It combines aspects of culinary science and medical research by examining taste, smell and other sensory perceptions to help people who have lost their minds to enjoy food again.

Some estimates show that the loss of smell from COVID-19 typically lasts two to three weeks for about more than half of patients who test positive for the virus. According to a study by Dr. Piccirillo of the Department of Otolaryngology at Washington University St. Louis School of Medicine, 95% of people who experience these problems make a full recovery.

While the science surrounding the taste and odor changes of COVID-19 is still evolving, researchers have noted that for some patients, when they do recover a scent, the scents they enjoyed smelled different, or even smelled. unpleasant for them. This could be because the olfactory cells have to ‘rewire themselves’ as they recover.

According to Dr. Barry Smith, a scientist who worked on the cookbook, it is possible to use the foods for therapeutic purposes.

While the recipes in the book do not cure the loss of taste and smell, they can help people enjoy eating while these senses recover on their own.

Many people who experience these symptoms are still able to taste certain flavors such as sugar, salt, lemon juice, or even the bitterness of coffee, according to Smith. He said his work has shown that when the taste and smell are altered, other senses can help people enjoy their food with certain textures. These can include stimulating saliva with an umami flavor and stimulating the trigeminal nerve, which among other roles regulates spicy sensations like tingling, chilling, or even burning.

Riley gave an example of these principles with one of her favorite dishes from the book, Miso Butter Potatoes with Green Herb Vinegar. Both miso and potatoes have a strong umami flavor, which has been helpful for those struggling with taste changes due to their ability to produce saliva. The smell, which he explained makes up 80% of the taste, is also satisfied via the vinegar, pepper and mint found in this dish. Mint, for example, stimulates the trigeminal nerve.

Meanwhile, chefs said garlic and onion, which are normally great bases for many dishes, are often disgusting to patients with altered taste and smell.

“It was about creating what we call safe, non-trigger foods. We know things like potatoes are really good for that, rice pasta, pretty simple flavors, “Riley told ABC News.” So we use the principles of the kitchen of life, looking to use a lot of umami which is our fifth taste or soy sauce, mushrooms, parmesan and try to add all of that as depth and base that you would originally get from things like garlic and onions to create delicious dishes to taste.

For people with these symptoms, it’s not just about food. Studies show that losing these senses or changing them in some way is linked to depression and other mood symptoms.

“We saw that people were really struggling,” Duke told ABC News. “They felt like they didn’t have anyone to help them and, and they didn’t feel that their partners and families understood what they were going through. “

“There’s a huge mental health aspect to that as well,” Riley said. “We know from cancer that once you start to dislike food, you don’t eat as much, which is detrimental to the body. If you don’t taste something for eight months, it can get really depressing. “

And there are other risks. The lack of smell can also put people at risk of fire and food poisoning, as they lack the ability to smell spoiled food or even smoke.

Duke and Riley embarked on this research before the pandemic to help cancer patients, who may also suffer from loss of taste and smell due to the effects of chemotherapy.

“Kimberly and I lost our mothers to cancer when she was 15 and I was 20. And I wanted to be a food writer and chef, ”said Riley. They founded a non-profit association, Life Kitchen. Last year their cookbook became the UK’s fourth bestseller.

For patients recovered from COVID-19, experts said more research is needed on exactly how certain senses are processed in the brain before other treatments can be perfected.

But for now, Riley and Duke are hoping a few thoughtful recipes might provide some relief.

The cookbook can be downloaded free of charge.

Samuel Rothman, MD, is a psychiatry resident at the BronxCare Health System in New York City and a collaborator with the ABC Medical Unit.

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