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Pediatr Pulmonol. 2010 Aug;45(8):807-15. doi: 10.1002/ppul.21261.

Chemosensory function and food preferences of children with cystic fibrosis.

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  • 1School of Women and Children's Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Erratum in

  • Pediatr Pulmonol. 2010 Oct;45(10):1046-7.


A major problem for patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) is the maintenance of adequate nutrition to maintain normal growth. The hypotheses that poor nutrition could be due to smell and/or taste dysfunction has been pursued in several studies with contradictory results. None, however, investigated whether inadequate nutrition is due to CF patients having different liking for foods compared to healthy children and whether liking can be linked to specific changes in smell or taste function. Here, the relationships between food liking, BMI, and smell and taste function in 42 CF and 42 healthy 5- to 18-year olds is pursued. A three-choice 16-item odor identification test and a gustatory identification test involving five concentrations of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty tastes, were used to assess chemosensory function. Food liking was assessed using a 94-item questionnaire. Patients identified significantly fewer odors than controls (89.8% vs. 95.7% correct; P < 0.001). However, only a few patients were affected and their loss of olfactory function was not substantial and unlikely to affect their liking for foods. Taste identification was similar for the two groups (patients 92.6% vs. controls 94.2% correct). There was no correlation between age and odor identification ability, but taste performance improved with age (r = 0.39, P < 0.05), suggesting cognition was the cause. Patients liked several types of foods and high-fat foods more than the controls. Both groups had a similar liking for low-fat foods and both liked high-fat foods more than low-fat foods. No significant relationships existed between FEV(1) and smell or taste function or liking for foods, the BMI of the groups were similar and there was no relationship between BMI and smell or taste function. The results indicate that the abnormal eating behavior reported for many CF patients is not due to changes in chemosensory function which remains normal in most CF patients at least to 18 years of age.

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