This alcohol free beer helps breast cancer patients overcome the metallic taste that chemo leaves

A Czech brewery’s Mamma Beer is alcohol-free and slightly sweet to help overcome the metallic taste of “chemo mouth”.

Chemotherapy comes with some nasty side effects, including weakness, nausea, hair loss and “chemo brain.” But one of the most frustrating is dysgeusia, a side effect which causes food to taste bland, bitter, metallic or simply off, meaning patients can’t lean on their favourite comfort foods when things get rough. But Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas at NPR reports that one brewery in the Czech Republic has created a beer with breast cancer patients undergoing chemo in mind, a non-alcoholic tipple full of vitamins and minerals with a flavour profile designed to overcome dysgeusia.

Zahradnicek-Haas reports that messed-up taste buds don’t only mean cancer patients miss out on treats. Chemo patients sometimes don’t want to eat anything at all, meaning they don’t get the nutrition they need during treatment. That’s something Jana Drexlerova, CEO of Prague-based breast cancer advocacy group Mamma Help, experienced firsthand when she underwent treatment in 2011. During her chemo she suffered from painful mouth lesions, making it difficult to eat. “After chemotherapy, everything tasted like sand,” she tells Zahradnicek-Haas. “When I finally got my appetite back, all I could eat was cold tomato soup, and even that was flavourless.”

Drexlerova and Tereza Sverakova, also a breast cancer survivor, decided producing a palatable and nutritious beer for those undergoing treatment would be a great project.

“Doctors often recommended drinking beer, in moderation, to get some nutrition and vitamins,” Sverakova, who works at ad firm Y&R, tells Cara Anderson at AdWeek. (We’re guessing those are Czech doctors.) “It really does help, but the taste is just so bitter! So, we thought it would be great to develop beer specifically for women undergoing chemo–beer that has all the vitamins and nutrients, but has no alcohol and is made sweeter to kill the bitterness. A beer that would help counter this side effect of chemo and promote Mamma HELP at the same time. We approached nine breweries, but just one said yes: Zatec. It took them half a year to develop the beer. Those who tasted Mamma Beer have found it to be great. That’s the biggest reward.”