Fortified with potassium and vitamin B, Mamma Beer is a beverage that contains other vitamins and minerals not replaced in those undergoing treatment, mainly due to a loss of appetite or the formation of mouth ulcers or sores, which make eating or swallowing difficult.
The beer is also designed to address dysgeusia, a condition associated with chemotherapy that alters the taste palate resulting in food and drink tasting bitter or bland.
Jana Drexlerova, CEO of Prague-based breast cancer group Mamma Help, who helped create the beer, has personal experience of the debilitating effects of treatment, describing the mouth lesions she developed that made eating difficult.
“After chemotherapy, everything tasted like sand,” she said. “When I finally got my appetite back, all I could eat was cold tomato soup, and even that was flavourless.”
Prague Beer Festival debut
Now, after teaming up with Czech brewery Zatec, the beer is available for distribution in the country’s oncology wards and pharmacies, having debuted at the Prague Beer Festival in March.
Aimed at women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, the limited-edition beer is available online through the Mamma HELP website and at eight Mamma HELP centres with plans to place the product on Czech supermarket shelves.
"I wanted the beer to boost nutrition and improve health during treatment," said Drexlerova. "It was also important for me to give these women back a sense of normalcy in their lives."
Food industry action
The concept of producing food and beverage specifically for those undergoing cancer has not gone unnoticed by food makers, who in recent years have stepped up efforts to cater to this audience.
In 2016, Swiss giants Nestlé announced its intention to tap into a €12.8bn ($15bn) market by developing prescription only powders and drinks designed to meet specific nutritional requirements to treat diseases.
Danone Nutricia’s research division, have made their intentions clear in February with a partnership with the HungerNDThirst Foundation to produce food and beverages that target patients undergoing chemotherapy.
The collaboration intends to improve nutritional intake and quality of life by combatting dysgeusia via a non-pharmacologic management, education, collaboration, taste profiling, research and product development.
“Malnutrition following chemo therapy can be around the corner, while getting the required nutrients is important to help keep up body weight and strength, help keep body tissue healthy, help fight infections and help stimulate social wellbeing,” said Irene Fernandez, science leader, sensory & behaviour in advanced medical nutrition at Danone Nutricia Research.
Meanwhile, over in the US, Nestlé Health Science already have in place a range of nutritional drinks designed for individuals who need extra nutrition to fill gaps in their diets, who have lost their appetite, and individuals who have difficulty preparing meals.
The BOOST product range can be used as a mini meal or as a between-meal snack and contains protein, vitamins and minerals, including calcium and vitamin D.