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Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 2002;(546):134-41.

Secretory function of the salivary gland in patients with taste disorders or xerostomia: correlation with zinc deficiency.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Nihon University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.


A notable proportion of patients with taste disorders complain of xerostomia and when zinc is prescribed the xerostomia is often improved in conjunction with the taste disorder. To study the relationship between taste disorders, zinc deficiency and xerostomia, we measured salivary gland function and zinc levels in 93 patients with hypogeusia and/or xerostomia and 60 patients with unilateral acute peripheral facial palsy who served as controls. We then prescribed zinc for patients with low serum zinc levels and evaluated xerostomia and taste sensation after 6 months of this treatment. The salivary gland secretory ratio (SGSR), determined by dynamic salivary 99mTc scintigraphy, was found to be an objective measure of salivary gland function and was reduced in patients with xerostomia. Patients with salivary gland dysfunction also had abnormal morphology of the papillae of the tongue. No significant relation was found between the severity of taste disorders and SGSR values, but low SGSR values were found in patients with zinc deficiency. Patients with taste disorders and/or xerostomia who were treated with zinc had relief of symptoms at 6 months, indicating that both taste disorders and xerostomia are among the symptoms of zinc deficiency.

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