Some of us feel that our taste gets better as we age. (Consider some of those ill-advised outfits you wore in high school.) But when it comes to our ability to taste food, it actually gets worse.
NPR recently looked at why that may be so. A few interesting takeaways from that post, augmented with a few tasty facts gathered elsewhere:
- Most of us have about 9,000 taste buds on our tongues at birth, each a clump of sensory cells that send taste signals via nerves to the brain.
- Some of the taste buds are particularly sensitive to perceiving sweetness, others to bitterness or sourness or saltiness.
- The cells in our taste buds generally regenerate every 1 to 2 weeks.
- As we get older our taste buds don’t regenerate as swiftly and may take longer to recover after an injury – such as when we burn our tongue on a hot beverage.
- The number of taste buds we have not only declines overall as we age, but those we are left with also shrink, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Our mouths also produce less saliva, which can affect our ability to taste.
- Smoking or taking certain medicines can augment the decline of your sense of taste.
- An ENT-otolaryngologist consulted by NPR says women often sense a decline in taste in their 50s, while men do in their 60s.
- A diminished sense of smell as we age may also play a role in the dulling of our sense of taste.
As for how you can combat this unfortunate byproduct of aging, NPR advises taking steps to address nasal congestion, favoring strong or spicy tasting foods, and compensating for taste with texture.