Health Advice



Environmental Nutrition: Foods not tasting the same as they used to? Here’s why

UHN staff, Environmental Nutrition on

Published in Health & Fitness

We know that as we age, eyesight and hearing may decline, but did you know that taste and smell can as well? We start out with thousands of taste buds, not only on the tongue, but in the throat and on the roof of the mouth. Some taste buds are sensitive to sweet, others to sour, salty, bitter, and more. When taste buds are damaged (like from scalding coffee), they are able to regenerate and are typically replaced every couple of weeks. Sensitivity to flavors and the ability to regenerate is reduced with age, beginning in your 50s or 60s.

Smell = Taste

Maybe even more important than a loss of sensitive taste buds with age is a loss of smell. That’s because taste and smell are intimately connected.

When you bite into a spicy food, you breathe in the flavor and exhale it through your nose, where chemicals interact with receptor cells and transmit information to the brain about the taste. The loss of sensitivity to smell with age is even greater than the loss of sensitivity in your taste buds. But together, the losses are a double whammy and can translate to less sweetness in desserts, less sting from chili peppers, and less sinus-opening effects of horseradish. In fact, that loss of taste you’re sensing could actually be a loss of smell.

In addition, sensitivities to specific tastes can shift with age. It’s not uncommon for a preference for sweet flavors during youth to shift to a preference for saltier flavors as with age.

Other causes


Medications and zinc deficiencies are two other common causes of changes in taste. As many as 45% of adults 60 years and older have zinc intakes below the average requirement, which can negatively affect the ability to taste. Red meat, poultry, beans, nuts and cereals are all good sources of zinc.

Chemotherapy, antihistamines, antidepressants, inhalers and blood pressure medications can interfere with your ability to taste, no matter your age.

(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.

©2024 Belvoir Media Group. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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