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How Taste and Smell Change Due to Aging

Audrey Hunt's passion for nutrition began the day she was diagnosed with diabetes. She's a vegetarian and advocate for healthy living.

The taste of food and drink is one of life's daily pleasures. Those tiny taste buds found on the tongue brings satisfaction and enjoyment to all. From the time we are babies through adulthood and into old age, we rely on taste for nutrition, energy, hydration and even celebration.

How would you feel if you could no longer taste your favorite food? What if that double scoop of chocolate fudge ice cream was devoid of chocolate flavor? Perhaps you've experienced not being able to taste food when you've had a bad cold or flu. Nothing really appeals to you because you have no sense of taste. You can't really smell anything, either.

But because you realize this is only temporary, you tell yourself it's okay. Soon you will have your sense of taste and smell back. Lucky you, because our aging seniors have to live with this disorder for the rest of their lives. This happens when taste buds die.

This article will explain how the aging process changes the anatomy and physiology of the senses. You will be amazed and surprised by what you learn here. And you'll develop a whole new appreciation for what you now take for granted—being able to taste and smell.

Let's begin with an introduction to taste buds and their function.

Take a look at the picture below to discover where your own taste buds are located. Notice that certain areas apply to sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes.

The Tongue and Taste Buds Positioning

The human tongue can detect 4 distinct tastes

The human tongue can detect 4 distinct tastes

Taste Buds and How They Work

The four basic tastes are Sweet, Sour, Salty and Bitter.

We can thank our taste buds for making food taste so good. They are located on the tongue and allow us to tell the difference between sweet, salty, sour and even bitter.

These taste buds have very sensitive hairs and are so small they can only be seen through a microscope. It's through these tiny hairs that messages are sent to the brain about how something tastes.

We have roughly 10,000 taste buds. Did you know that these taste buds are actually replaced about every two weeks?

Each one of these taste buds are made up of about 50-150 receptor cells. These cells only live for 1 or 2 weeks and then they are replaced by new receptor cells.

But these taste buds get some help from your nose as well. The nose contains receptors (Olfactory) that help messages get to the brain. They help you to be able to smell food which then helps to taste food.

Which of the four basic tastes do you like the best? I personally prefer sweet and salty. My daughter likes sour and my son goes nuts for bitter.

Even the taste of creamy, delicious, ice cream diminishes in our later years. Certain medications can also cause a loss of taste.

Even the taste of creamy, delicious, ice cream diminishes in our later years. Certain medications can also cause a loss of taste.

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