Changing tastes

Poor chewing is another factor that contributes to low detection of tastes. Due to aging or poor oral health, some people lose their teeth, with many resorting to dentures. But dentures, particularly if ill-fitting, can affect the quality of chewing and breaking down of food compounds. This can then reduce the dissolution of the food compounds in saliva and reduces the contact levels with the sensory receptors in the taste buds. In addition, saliva secretion can also decline as a result of aging. This means that there is less fluid to carry food compounds to the taste receptors, and less liquid available to help food compounds to dissolve, so taste is more poorly received.

General health also plays an important role in our sense of taste at any age. Head injuries, medicinal drugs, respiratory infections, cancer, radiation, and environmental exposure such as smoke and particulates can all contribute to an impaired sense of taste and exposure to many of these factors increase as we get older.

Not everyone’s sense of taste declines in the same way, however. Changes are known to be diverse among different people and genders, and not everyone shows the same level of impairment as they age. Though some things are inevitable, there are things that we can all do to at least reduce loss of taste. Our preliminary research, for example, has indicated that keeping a healthy diet, an active lifestyle, and ensuring a low to moderate consumption of the five tastes—sweet, sour, salt, umami and bitter—could help to slow down the changes in papillae.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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