A new study from Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences claims that lactoferrin, a protein found in milk, may help improve taste and smell in cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy. When given lactoferrin supplements, cancer patients experienced significantly reduced taste and smell abnormalities.
Why it’s cool: Lactoferrin is typically found in saliva, and in both human and cow milk, and has a wide range of benefits. It helps regulate iron absorption and has been linked to protecting against bacterial infections and boosting the immune system. It’s often used in medicinal form to treat stomach and intestinal ulcers, hepatitis C, and may be a key piece to solving global iron deficiency.
More than half of cancer patients who go through chemotherapy treatment experience dysgeusia, which is impaired sense of taste or smell, often described as a “metallic.” This can last days, weeks or even months after undergoing chemotherapy, and can often lead to loss of appetite, malnutrition and depression due to the inability to enjoy food.
According to this new study, cancer patients who took lactoferrin supplements for 30 days had reduced levels of salivary Fe (“iron” saliva—which explains the metallic taste), but also reported reduced abnormalities in taste. Researchers hope this is a step to improving quality of life for chemotherapy patients.