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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Food Science

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Between 4-16% of adults in the United States have experienced difficulty swallowing at some point during their lives. Difficulty swallowing, or clinically referred to as dysphagia, poses increased concern when drinking beverages. While no treatment is currently available, it is often recommended that liquids be thickened to improve the safety of swallowing and prevent liquids from being aspirated in the lungs. However, thickened liquids are poorly accepted by individuals with dysphagia. Taste and flavor suppression has been shown in various thickened liquid matrices, but the mechanisms for understanding these changes in perception are quite complex. Additionally, literature focused on dysphagic patients’ experiences with different types of beverages and clinicians’ experiences with thickening beverages is minimal.

The study had two main goals: 1) explore how sensory properties including texture, taste, and flavor affect acceptance of specific thickened liquids and 2) determine challenges clinicians experience with thickening different beverages. This was achieved through a quantitative and qualitative online survey administered to clinicians (n=83; 96% speech-language pathologist) in the United States who work with dysphagia patients. Free-response questions related to thickening issues highlighted challenges with carbonation, temperature, and dairy products. Coffee, water, soda, milk, and oral nutritional supplements were the most complained about thickened beverages, respectively. Disliking of texture was a common complaint for each beverage likely due to the dissimilarity to the unthickened version and challenges associated with thickening. Off-flavors were reported for each beverage and were the most present in water. Additionally, clinicians noted the thickened version of the beverage typically has less flavor. To increase the acceptance of thickened liquids, clinicians believe the texture and flavor need significant improvements. Interdisciplinary work in the field of food science is needed to create a smoother consistency, more stable thickness across time and temperature, and improved flavor/taste to develop more enjoyable beverages for dysphagic patients.


First Advisor

Alissa Nolden

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.