Most of us worry about the effects of aging on our looks or our bodies. But did you know that aging affects your taste buds as well? Suddenly, as you get older, your favorite dish just doesn't taste the same. Foods that used to make your taste buds dance seem bland. What's going on?
Well, for starters, your taste buds change as you age, says Dr. Heather O'Toole, MD a primary care physician with HonorHealth Medical Group. It's noticeable when you eat, too. And O'Toole knows taste. In addition to her love of cooking, she practiced in a weight loss institute where she sharpened her tools in coaching people to love the taste of healthy food.
Understanding Your Taste Buds
- Where are they? They're found in the top surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus, cheek and epiglottis.
- They're composed of 4 types of papillae which function to detect taste.
- Taste buds can detect 5 elements of taste which combine to make flavors: bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami.
- They're alive for an average of 10 days.
- They can detect any flavor in any part of the mouth.
- You have a lot of taste buds! Depending on age, you can have 5,000-10,000 taste buds at any point in time.
- Taste buds are on the same team as your nose. Sensory receptors in the nose pick up the chemicals emitted while we chew and this is then communicated with the brain for a full experience of flavor.
As you age, the number of taste buds you have lowers and the ones you do keep have a tendency to shrink, says O'Toole. But if you're experiencing a difference in the way food tastes, talk to your doctor. There could be an underlying cause for it. "And don't be tempted to overdo the salt or sugar. It's just not good for you," cautions O'Toole. Stick to herbs and spices, she says.
Dr. Heather O'Toole was an active duty Air Force physician who had additional training in women's health and obstetrics. She's especially interested in women's health, pediatrics, and military populations. "I really feel that it's important to work as a team together with my patients. My goal is to give you the tools need to be empowered."