Have you ever found yourself saying “this does not taste as good as I remember” the first time you try a food you have not eaten in many years? Nostalgia can have a tendency to make us believe something was better than it really was if we think back on it fondly.
However this might not be the case with food – your sense of taste may have really changed! As we grow up our taste buds develop, but later in life, our taste buds begin to lose their effectiveness.
How Do We Recognize Flavor?
There are 5 “tastes” that contribute to what we recognize as flavor. These include sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and savory. The texture and temperature of the food also can play a role.
Among these tastes, the salty and sweet aspects are often the first to become less effective as we age. When we find ourselves thinking food that is normal salty tasting is becoming increasingly bland, then many individuals turn to adding salt to our foods.
This can be a recipe for increasing your risk for high blood pressure as you age.
What Causes your Taste Buds to be Less Effective as you Age?
The most common example of a loss of taste is simply burning your tongue. We’ve all had it happen before, but our taste buds quickly regenerate in just a few days.
Unfortunately, as your tastebuds grow older they can become slower at recovering from injuries.
For women, it is common for this process to start in their 40s while men often experience this in their 50s.
Other Common Reasons You Lose Your Sense of Taste
Sometimes the cause for your lack of taste is not your taste buds at all.
If your salivary glands become damaged or you are no longer producing enough saliva, this can have an impact on the tastes you experience.
The medications you are currently taking could have side-effects that impact your sense of taste, or a recent illness (like COVID-19) could be impacting your sense of taste even after you are feeling better.
Lastly, the issue could actually be with your smell! Because your nose is capable of distinguishing so many different scents, the way a food smells can help you establish its taste. Like taste, your sense of smell is something that will lessen with age.