COVID-19 and sequelae thereof are known to cause chemosensory dysfunction, posing a risk for intake and adequate nutrition for recovery. The overall objective of this study was to investigate the subjective strategies for maintaining appetite applied by patients recovering from COVID-19. The study included 19 in-depth interviews, focusing on patients suffering from long-term effects of COVID-19. The results were analysed using a thematic analysis for qualitative data. Results on strategies for maintaining appetite included four key themes: (1) a focus on well-functioning senses, (2) a focus on familiar foods, (3) a focus on the eating environment, and (4) a focus on post-ingestive well-being. It was found that factors prior to, during and after food intake, as well as the context, could influence desire to eat and pleasure related to food intake. As ageusia and anosmia make characterization of food difficult, being able to recognize and memorize its flavour was important to engage in consumption. Under normal circumstances, the hedonic value of food relies predominantly on the flavour of foods. When suffering from chemosensory dysfunction, shifting focus towards the texture of food, including trigeminal stimulation during consumption, were beneficial for maintaining appetite and food-related pleasure. Furthermore, a focus on the holistic satisfying feelings of choosing healthy food, as well as a focus on other people’s enjoyment during meals were reported to boost well-being around food intake. The study elaborated our understanding of the complex consequences of COVID-19, and can be applied in health promoting initiatives targeted patients recovering from COVID-19.
- Chemosensory dysfunction
- Sensory function