Why Taste Buds Dull As We Age

Natalie Jacewicz wrote . . . . .

Sometimes people develop strange eating habits as they age. For example, Amy Hunt, a stay-at-home mom in Austin, Texas, says her grandfather cultivated some unusual taste preferences in his 80s.

“I remember teasing him because he literally put ketchup or Tabasco sauce on everything,” says Hunt. “When we would tease him, he would shrug his shoulders and just say he liked it.” But Hunt’s father, a retired registered nurse, had a theory: Her grandfather liked strong flavors because of his old age and its effects on taste.

When people think about growing older, they may worry about worsening vision and hearing. But they probably don’t think to add taste and smell to the list.

“You lose all your senses as you get older, except hopefully not your sense of humor,” says Steven Parnes, an ENT-otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) working in Albany, N.Y.

To understand how aging changes taste, a paean to the young tongue might be appropriate. The average person is born with roughly 9,000 taste buds, according to Parnes. Each taste bud is a bundle of sensory cells, grouped together like the tightly clumped petals of a flower bud. These taste buds cover the tongue and send taste signals to the brain through nerves. Taste buds vary in their sensitivity to different kinds of tastes. Some will be especially good at sensing sweetness, while others will be especially attune to bitter flavors, and so on.

A taste bud is good at regenerating; its cells replace themselves every 1-2 weeks. This penchant for regeneration is why one recovers the ability to taste only a few days after burning the tongue on a hot beverage, according to Parnes.

Aging may change that ability. Though taste buds generally seem to be good at regenerating even with age, older taste buds are less adept at regenerating after injury. In addition, some kinds of medication can interfere with taste. Parnes says based on his clinical observations, the amount of loss varies from one individual to another, but women generally report losing taste in their 50s and men in their 60s.

Parnes sympathizes with people with a dampened sense of taste, because he’s never had a sense of smell. (The condition is called anosmia, and Parnes figured out he had it at 8 years old, when his friends would complain about odors that he couldn’t detect at school.)

“Sometimes people who come in complaining of a loss of taste are actually losing their sense of smell,” says Parnes.

While the tongue only detects a handful of flavors, the nose detects thousands of smells and is intimately related to the ability to detect the tastes we associate with certain foods. But loss of smell is also reported with aging.

For people suffering from a loss of taste or smell, Parnes recommends seeing an ENT to be sure something treatable or dangerous isn’t going on. Sometimes viruses or head trauma can result in cell degeneration or in nerves tearing. But in many cases, Parnes says there’s not a lot aging gourmets can do, except take nasal spray to stay decongested, and seek out bold tastes — Parnes enjoys spicy flavors.

“I’ll gravitate toward things that have a certain texture, too,” says Parnes. “I like filet mignon better than a sirloin in part because of texture.”

And if that fails? Dunking everything in ketchup and Tabasco would probably work, too.

Source: npr


How Artificial Marbling Has Been Tricking Steak Lovers For Years

Constantine Spyrou wrote . . . . .

In an exclusive interview with Mic, Anthony Bourdain mentioned that one of the douchiest items you can order on a menu is Kobe or Wagyu beef, largely due to the suspicion of inauthenticity it causes since it’s likely not the real thing and the restaurant is ripping people off.

A key way to classify beef is by the high degree of marbling, or fat, running through the cut of meat as a result of its diet. The price of highly marbled cuts like USDA Prime, Kobe, or Wagyu beef is expensive, but the flavor and tenderness of the beef makes it worth the cost. Surprisingly, you can often find these cuts being sold at restaurants for cheaper prices than what you would expect for a $55 per pound piece of Kobe beef or $110 per pound chunk of Wagyu.

There’s several ways restaurants can trick you into thinking their steak is legit, but one of these methods is more devious than any out there: artificial marbling.

This practice has been going on for at least 50 years, and involves injecting carcasses of beef with melted or powderized animal or vegetable fat (or a solution containing the liquid lipids) right after slaughter or in the butchering process. The fat then runs through the beef’s blood vessels, creating a falsified marbling effect. Some more current research has shown these methods can increase the quality of beef by at least two USDA marbling scores. That’s like taking a piece of USDA Select grade beef and upping it to Prime, the highest quality of beef, simply by injecting fat into the meat.

Artificial marbling occurs at the butcher level, so you will find this meat in grocery stores as well as restaurants, likely being sold at a higher price point because the added fat makes it look better to customers. While the USDA requires store-bought beef that goes through artificial marbling to be appropriately labeled, we don’t see these labels when we order steak or beef from a restaurant. So that Kobe, Wagyu, or even USDA Prime and Choice beef on the menu could actually be commercial beef that was marbled after it was slaughtered.

Sure, this beef would look and taste the same as its higher-quality counterparts, but the ethics behind it are still skewed. Restaurants can essentially get away with selling lower-quality, cheaper meat at a higher price since they can claim it’s Prime, Kobe, or Wagyu and nobody would be able to tell the difference.

You’re literally just paying for the name at many restaurants. It’s better to just buy yourself a steak and cook it, since at least then you can tell if it’s been artificially marbled or not.

Source: FoodBeast

In Pictures: Foods of the Noma Pop-up Restaurant in Tulum, Mexico

Tropical fruits and chile de árbol

Catch-of-the-day seafood starter

Tostada with ant eggs and beans

Just cooked octopus with dikilpak

Cold masa broth with lime and all the flowers of the moment

Young coconut and caviar

Grilled avocado and matey seeds

Pasilla chiles simmered in Melipona honey and stuffed with chocolate sorbet

The Restaurant

Hearty Bread with Carrot, Parsnip and Zucchini


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 medium parsnip, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded
3 large eggs
3/4 cup apple butter or pumpkin butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil two 8-1/2 by 4-1/2 by 2-1/2-inch loaf pans with olive oil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and shredded carrots, parsnip, and zucchini. Mix well. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, fruit butter, olive oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined, but don’t overmix.
  3. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and sprinkle the tops with the pumpkin seeds. Bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Let cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves.

Source: True Food

Giving A Single, High Dose of Radiation Directly to the Site of A Prostate Tumor Is Safe

Doctors have found that treating prostate cancer with a single, high dose of radiation delivered precisely to the site of the tumour results in good quality of life and fewer trips to the hospital, with adverse side effects that are no worse than if the radiation treatment had been given in several lower doses.

Dr Alfonso Gomez-Iturriaga, from the Hospital de Cruces, Baracaldo, Spain, told the ESTRO 36 conference that results were encouraging from the phase II trial of high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy, delivered in a single fraction of 19Gy [1], to 45 patients with prostate cancer that was at low or intermediate risk of spreading elsewhere in the body.

“Our study demonstrates that patients do not suffer higher toxicity or a worse quality of life than might be expected with other methods of delivering radiation treatment. In fact, patients are very satisfied with this single outpatient treatment, which they find convenient and which allows them to return rapidly to normal activities.

“It is too early to say that this strategy can be used outside the trial setting, but it seems quite clear that the toxicity and impact on quality of live are very low. Longer follow-up for at least five years is needed to demonstrate definite cancer control.”

HDR brachytherapy involves the very precise positioning of catheters, with the aid of ultrasound, at the site of the tumour while the patient is under spinal or general anaesthetic. A radioactive source (iridium-192) is delivered via the catheters to the target, avoiding other structures such as the bladder and the bowel, so that they deliver the maximum dose precisely to the target. The treatment usually takes about 30 minutes.

“The combination of a short lapse of time, real-time 3D visualisation of the target and needles positioning using ultrasound, and the ability to optimise the dose (high doses to target and low doses to surrounding organs at risk), allows for an extraordinary control over the dose administration. To the patient the main advantage is to get the radiotherapy in just one day. Although the brachytherapy is done in an operating room, it is an outpatient procedure and the patient avoids daily radiation treatment,” said Dr Gomez-Iturriaga.

Although it has been thought that HDR brachytherapy could be used for treating prostate cancer, until now there has been limited evidence of its safety and efficacy. In this study, 45 consecutive patients received HDR brachytherapy at the Hospital de Cruces between January 2014 and July 2016. The patients had low- or intermediate-risk prostate cancer, mild to moderate symptoms, a tumour volume that was 60cc or less, and had not yet had surgery or androgen deprivation therapy.

After a follow-up time that ranged from three to 31 months (median average was 16 months), there were no serious (grade 3) adverse side effects from the treatment; six patients had moderate (grade 2) bowel or bladder problems (diarrhoea or needing to pass urine frequently or urgently).

In terms of quality of life, the need to pass urine urgently declined significantly between the first and sixth month after treatment and had returned to normal after a year. There were no significant changes in bowel movements, sexual or hormonal functioning. Sixty percent of patients who had normal sexual functioning before the treatment continued to function normally afterwards. Six months after the radiation therapy, 77% of patients said they were “extremely satisfied” with their treatment and quality of life and 23% were “very satisfied”.

Dr Gomez-Iturriaga said these were excellent results in terms of patient satisfaction, quality of life, toxicity and tolerability, as well as safety.

“The precise control over dose delivery inherent in HDR brachytherapy is not readily achievable with low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy because of several factors: movement of the radioactive seeds away from the target site, swelling of the prostate after the implant and uncertain dose delivery outside the prostate, which can all contribute to less than optimal dose distributions,” he said. “With LDR brachytherapy the actual dose distribution achieved is not known until the post plan quality assurance is completed, several weeks after the treatment. In contrast, with HDR brachytherapy, what you plan to treat is exactly what is actually administered.”

President of ESTRO, Professor Yolande Lievens, head of the department of radiation oncology at Ghent University Hospital, Belgium, said: “As radiation oncologists we are working constantly to try to reduce the impact of radiation therapy on patients’ lives while maintaining and improving the efficacy of the treatment. Although these results are preliminary in that it is too early to affirm the actual control of the tumour, they suggest that it may be possible to reduce the number of trips to hospital for patients and, at, the same time, to target the treatment more precisely, thereby avoiding adverse side effects. However, we need to follow these patients for longer to ensure the cancer continues to be controlled successfully.”

Source: EurekAlert!

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