How Do We Acquire our Own Unique Taste for Foods & Why do they Change Over Time ?
Did you know that your sense of smell and taste are connected? Also, as you get older, that these senses can change ?
As we age, we progressively lose parts of our senses of taste and smell. The first parts to go are those that make us dislike certain foods. Much later in life, we begin to lose the parts that allow us to enjoy our favourite foods. In between is the golden age of the gourmet- enjoy it while you can !
Acquiring our Tastes : Experience, Nurture & our Genetic Makeup
Our genetically acquired senses of taste and smell encourage certain preferences, such as that for sweetness, or avoidances, such as those for bitterness or faecal tastes, but we are by nature non-specialist, socialising omnivores.
However if we are neither to starve nor poison ourselves, we must learn which foods are good for us and which are not – this is the Experience & Nurture bit.
We generally start out life with what is usually termed ‘ a child like palette’ where the rule generally is : ‘What you or your friends don’t know or don’t like is nasty.’
Over time this rule is, however, subject to circumstances such as famine, social pressures such as hospitality, and the way you are brought up (or nurtured).
The rule is also subject to experience, for example: ‘That nasty-smelling cabbage left me feeling nice and full; now it doesn’t smell so bad. But having vomited kidneys while in the middle of a fever, I can’t even stand their smell!’
So much for how we each acquire our own peculiar preferences and tastes. But why do they change once established ?
Why the Change ?
As you get older, it can get harder for you to notice flavours. Some women can start to lose their taste buds in their 40s. For men, the change can happen in their 50s. Also, the taste buds you still have may shrink and become less sensitive. Salty and sweet flavors tend to weaken first. Later, it may be more difficult for you to taste things that are bitter or sour.
Your sense of smell can lessen, too. It’s strongest when you’re between 30 to 60 years old. Then it starts to weaken. Some seniors eventually lose it.
You can’t reverse age-related decline in your sense of taste. But don’t assume that age is all there is to it.
Prescription drugs can affect how your taste buds pick up flavours. Or they could put different chemicals into your saliva.
Your taste could be affected if you have :
- An infection in your nose, throat, or sinuses.
- A head injury, which might affect the nerves related to taste and smell.
- A polyp or a growth that blocks your nasal passage.
- An abscess in your mouth or other dental problems. That can release bad-tasting stuff into your mouth. Dentures also can cause problems.
Tobacco creates pollution. It keeps you from identifying odours and throws off your taste. If you quit, your sense of taste and sense of smell will likely get better.