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Side Effect: Altered Taste

What is Altered Taste?

A change in taste, also called dysgeusia, is when your sense of taste is impaired, abnormal, or is unpleasant. This can be a common side effect of chemotherapy, radiation, vitamin deficiencies, infection or other conditions.

What does Altered Taste look like?

You may notice that foods and beverages that you used to eat and drink now taste foul, bland, salty, rancid, or even metallic. Certain foods with strong flavors (bitterness, sweetness, and salty foods) are more likely to taste different. Sometimes, different foods can all taste the same or high-protein foods likes meat can leave a metallic or chemical aftertaste. It is important to recognize changes in taste because it can lead to malnutrition, loss of appetite and weight loss.

Altered Taste

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Who gets Altered Taste?

Dysgeusia is a common side effect and can develop within days to weeks of starting cancer treatment. There are many reasons that someone may have dysgeusia. Some of the most common causes include:

How to prevent Altered Taste

Preventing dysgeusia in patients with cancer can be challenging since it is a side effect of cancer treatment. However, there are some interventions that can help reduce the severity of altered taste:

How to treat Altered Taste

Treating dysgeusia can be challenging because taste alterations vary in severity and is specific to the person. There is limited evidence regarding the benefit of specific treatments for dysgeusia. Some studies suggest that oral rinses or flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) or citric acid may improve taste perception and increase food intake. Additionally, zinc supplementation, and taking dietary supplements with glutamine, lactoferrin and fish oil may be helpful (talk to your doctor before starting these supplements).

New foods may need to be incorporated into the diet as previously enjoyed foods may not taste the same. Plain drinking water can often bring out a metallic taste. If so, incorporating low-sugar flavored beverages can help with the flavor. Eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of fluids are important, especially while undergoing chemotherapy. Talking to a registered dietician can help create specific meal plans for patients with taste disturbances.


1)  Ito K, Yuki S, Nakatsumi H, et al. Multicenter, prospective, observational study of chemotherapy-induced dysgeusia in gastrointestinal cancer. Support Care Cancer 2022;30(6):5351-5359

2) Murtaza B, Hichami A, Khan AS, et al. Alteration in Taste Perception in Cancer: Causes and Strategies of Treatment. Front. Physiol 2017:8;134

3) Togni L, Mascitti M, Vignigni A, et al. Treatment-Related Dysgeusia in Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrient 2021;13(10):3325

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5) Sevryugin O, Kasvis P, Vigano M, et al. Taste and smell disturbances in cancer patients: a scoping review of available treatments. Supportive Care in Cancer 2021;29:49-66

6) McLaughlin L, Mahon SM. Understanding taste dysfunction in patients with cancer. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2012;16(2):171-8

7) National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2023). Taste Disorders. National Institute of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved January 4, 2024, from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/taste-disorders#:~:text=Dysgeusia%20%5Bdis%2DGYOO%2Dzee,burning%20sensation%20in%20the%20mouth

Created: January 20, 2024 Updated: February 5, 2024