There’s More to Taste than Meets the Tongue

April 28, 20230

Believe it or not, there are many factors that alter our flavor perception. Not sure I really gave this much thought before now, but it makes sense. These factors vary greatly from your age to your health.

Did you know that your taste buds begin to degenerate around age 45, and taste loss continues to diminish as you continue to age? As a result, you may need to increase certain flavors. For example, the thresholds for sweet, salt and bitter are 2.5 times higher in the elderly compared to younger consumers. That means you may need to increase the amount of the flavor you are looking for as you age to appreciate the same perception you had when you were younger. There’s actually a reason many kids don’t like sauerkraut or maybe dill pickles until they are older when the flavor seems less intense.

Meal timing and choice are contributing factors. Your taste sensitivity is reduced for one to four hours after eating or drinking. Spicier foods have a greater impact on this taste sensitivity.

Smoking can damage nerve endings and decrease the taste buds’ ability to register bitter, sour, sweet and salty tastes. Yet, just two days after quitting, these nerves begin to heal, and a person may experience a sense of taste and smell that is stronger than before.

Taste buds can be impacted by high and low temperatures. Decreasing temperature may increase the response to bitterness and decrease the response to sourness. The opposite is true as well. Increased temperatures may increase the response to sweetness and decrease it to saltiness and bitterness. Who knew?

There are additional factors that alter our taste perception as well. According to FONA, your hunger level, life experiences, health status, adaptation, and taste medium can be factors. It makes sense. If you have the flu, your taste buds are less sensitive. If you tie a comfort food to a special experience or memory in your life, it brings you great joy because it affects the other senses as well.

When you’re tasting, you usually engage other senses as well, such as smell, mouthfeel, texture, hearing and more. They help us to describe the flavors and tastes we are experiencing. Enjoy engaging your senses!

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