As a continuation of our series on Healthy Aging in 2016, today’s
post will discuss the ways that taste can be affected by age. When we
get older, our taste changes. Although you were born with approximately
10,000 taste buds, over time those taste buds may decrease and diminish
in size. In addition, age-related impairment of your sense of smell can
change your ability to enjoy food and flavor. Keep reading to learn more
about the risks of losing your ability to taste, and how to protect yourself
and learn to cope with changes in your senses of smell and taste.
How Taste Changes as We Get Older
Think back to when you were a child. If someone asked you what your favorite
food was, you would probably answer with some type of candy or dessert.
Small children respond best to sweet, sugary flavors such as candy and
milk chocolate. There is actually an important reason for this. Growing
kids need energy to help their bodies grow. Until recent changes in the
human diet, it was important for children to be able to identify energy-efficient
sources of food, which is why young palates are most susceptible to these
types of foods.
Over time, most people experience changes in their taste. As their taste
buds change, they are able to appreciate more strong and complex flavors,
including spicy foods, dark chocolate, umami, wine, garlic, cheeses, fresh
fruits, and vegetables. A
recent study conducted in the United Kingdom interviewed 2,000 people. Those surveyed
were asked when they first began to enjoy certain foods such as mussels,
spinach, horseradish, avocado, olives, goat cheese, and more. Respondents
typically answered between 19 and 28. The average age for when people
began enjoying stronger flavors was about 22.
Can I Lose My Sense of Taste?
Most adults have around 10,000 taste buds. Some people even have closer
to 20,000 taste buds! These so-called “supertasters” represent
between 15% and 25% of the total population. They are able to identify
much more minute and delicate tastes. Other people have closer to 5,000
taste buds—these less-sensitive tasters are sometimes called “non-tasters.”
Your taste buds are replaced approximately every two weeks. Over time your
taste buds will eventually stop renewing themselves and you may experience
a decrease in your number of taste buds. Research has shown that the amount
of taste buds you have when you are born will never increase but may decrease.
Your sense of smell also changes with age. This can be a factor in your
enjoyment of food. There are only about four to nine types of tastes,
but there are thousands of smells. Your senses of taste and smell work
together. As nerve endings in your nostrils are impaired with age, this
can play a role in your ability to enjoy food. To learn more, read our
previous blog post in this series on “The Sense Of Smell & How
It Changes With Age.”
How Can I Enjoy Eating with Age?
There are some factors can exacerbate or accelerate your loss of smell
/ taste, including smoking, exposure to harmful airborne toxins, and certain
medications. If loss of taste is affecting your enjoyment of food, one
side effect could be weight loss.
Here are some tips to help ensure that you can continue to enjoy eating!
Get the right temperature. Watch the temperature of your meals. You may enjoy your food better at
a slightly colder or hotter temperature. This can increase the food’s
taste and ensure that you are able to enjoy your meals.
Check out new spices and herbs. Many seniors pile on the salt in order to enjoy the taste of their food
more. Unfortunately, many believe that too much sodium can have negative
effects on your health. Increase your enjoyment and the flavor of your
food in a safer way by experimenting with new herbs and spices. Try basil.
Oregano, cilantro, turmeric, and cumin. Add spices like caraway, parsley,
and dill seeds to vegetable dishes. Experiment with new cuisines such
as Indian, Mexican, Mediterranean, and Italian dishes. Try balsamic vinegar,
lime juice, lemon juice, citrus zest, or red wine vinegar for healthy
and exciting new options.
Ask your doctor about your medications. Some medications can compromise your taste / olfactory senses, impairing
your ability to taste your food. If you are struggling to enjoy your meals,
talk to your doctor about possible side effects.
Make the most of your favorite meal. Are you hungriest in the morning? Maybe you have the biggest appetite
at night. Make the most of your favorite meal.
Experiment with new foods and cooking methods. If you are struggling to enjoy meals, maybe it’s time to think outside
the box! Find new ways to be excited about food. Whether it is by checking
out new cuisines or taking a cooking class to learn new methods and tricks,
or by enjoying meals with friends and family, it may be that a new approach
is all you need to get excited and inspired again.
Keep Reading Our Blog for More Tips on Healthy Living with Age!
This series on the LifeCare Home Health & In-Home Services blog is
about aging in a healthy way. Keep checking back to this blog for new
posts in this series! We’ll continue answering your questions about
aging and providing you with tips for staying healthy.