Alterations of the Olfactory–Gustatory Functions in Patients with Eating Disorders

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Abstract

Objective:

The purpose of this study was to assess olfactory–gustatory function impairment in patients with eating disorders.

Methods:

Nineteen patients with a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, 18 patients with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa and a control sample of 19 healthy subjects were recruited from the day hospital service of the Complex Operative Unit for Alimentary Conduct Disorders of the Policlinico Umberto I in Rome. Evaluation of olfactory and gustatory functions was performed on patients through the ‘Sniffin’ Sticks' method in order to assess the olfactory threshold, the capacity for discriminating and identifying olfactory stimuli, and the overall olfactory function, and through the ‘taste strip’ kit method in order to assess the gustatory function. The results were processed statistically to assess differences between patients with anorexia nervosa, patients with bulimia nervosa and healthy controls.

Results:

The two groups of patients with bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa showed a poorer olfactory and gustatory function compared with the healthy controls; discrimination of olfactory stimuli and overall olfactory function were reduced in both samples, as well as the overall gustatory function and the perception of bitter stimuli, whereas olfactory threshold was altered only in patients with bulimia nervosa. In both samples, scores for olfactory function fell within the range of hyposmia.

Discussion:

Our data suggest that patients with eating disorders have an altered perception of olfactory and gustatory stimuli. The alterations observed are worth further investigation. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

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