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The Effect Of Age On Taste

1936 words - 8 pages

The Effect of Age on Taste

The sense of taste has to be one of the most important human senses. It gives an individual the ability to recognize consumables that are encountered on a regular basis such as a favorite steak platter or a favorite wine. However, when that individual reaches a particular age the sense of taste deteriorates, which can result in potentially dangerous conditions such as malnourishment or susceptibility to diseases. This problem of taste loss due to aging needs to be studied more because it can effect both the physical and mental health of many elderly people.

When elderly individuals try to live life with a weakened ability to recognize certain food flavors or any other consumable item, their dietary needs can be greatly affected. A certain number of foods are not going to taste good enough to satisfy the appetites of the elderly, so they might resort to using unhealthy eating habits. For example, they could lose the motivation to eat certain foods such as vegetables or meats and increase the consumption of foods that are low in nutritional value such as candies or pastries. This shift can result in health problems such as a loss in bone mass, a weakened immune system, weak muscles, and high blood pressure.

Elderly citizens need to acquire a specific amount of nutrients in order to maintain a healthy life style. Spence (1989) mentioned that diets which maintain adequate levels of vitamins and minerals and also consist of 50 to 55% carbohydrates, 12 to 15% proteins, and 25 to 35% fats are recommended for persons over the age of 50. In order for the elderly to live up to a healthy diet, they need to consume nutritious foods that will taste good to them. The problem with this situation is how to handle the effects of age on the sense of taste.

There have been numerous studies (e. g. Hendricks, Calasanti, and Turner, 1988; Schieber, 1992) in the past that have searched for possible causes and solutions to taste loss in aging people. Some researchers have looked for causes of taste loss in the elderly by focusing on the biological changes that occur in the mouth such as enhanced taste abilities or sensory deficits in the tongue, while others have looked for causes of taste loss by focusing on the impact of external factors on the mouth such as smoking (e. g. Hsu and Davis, 1981). Those that have searched for solutions to the problem of taste loss in the elderly have experimented with flavor or color enhancers in foods for the purpose of making them more appealing to the elderly. Surprisingly, some past research has made progress in finding possible explanations for the decline in taste ability in the elderly (e. g. Miller, 1988).

Some researchers have attempted to determine the cause of taste loss in the elderly by focusing specifically on the sensitivity of the tongue (e. g. Schiffman, 1977). Some have speculated that the decline of taste could be related to the number of taste buds that a person loses on...

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