Oral nutritional supplements: serving practices and their effect on taste perception - a cross-sectional survey of nursing staff followed by a sensory analysis in healthy adults
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: Oral nutritional supplements are a recommended form of nutrition support but compliance is frequently suboptimal, often because patients find them unpalatable. This study explored how palatability might be improved by changing serving methods, followed by sensory analysis of a single supplement under different conditions. Methods: In stage 1, researcher-administered questionnaires were used to explore supplement compliance from the perspective of hospital nursing staff (n=6), including whether serving methods influence consumption and their suggestions for improving palatability. In stage 2, these suggestions were tested in a sensory evaluation. Healthy volunteers (n=32) were recruited to taste four Ensure Plus milkshake recipes: (i) ambient (ii) with ice, (iii) with 40ml full-fat milk, and (iv) with 60g vanilla ice cream. Using 9-point scales, participants rated each supplement for a range of sensory attributes. Results: Nursing staff commented that compliance to supplements depends on temperature, flavour and volume, personal inclination to take supplements and perceived benefit. Sensory analysis results showed mean taste ratings were significantly higher for the ice and milk variants (6.6 and 6.3) compared to ambient (5.3) (p=0.007 and p=0.015, respectively). Mean texture rating for ice (6.5) was significantly higher than ambient (5.5) (p=0.026). However, a wide variation in preferences was found among participants, with no particular supplement favoured by the majority. Conclusions: In healthy populations the perceived taste of supplements can be improved by adding ice or supplementary ingredients, however this can lead to product dislike for some individuals. This study suggests preferences vary widely and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving palatability. Therefore it is more effective spending a short time with each patient to explore their personal preferences, to improve the acceptance of supplements for that individual. However, patient motivation and education regarding the clinical value of supplements might be crucial to optimise compliance.
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