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Chem Senses. 2007 Jul;32(6):591-602. Epub 2007 May 22.

Food perception with age and its relationship to pleasantness.

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  • 1Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences, PO Box 557, 6700 AN Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Differences between elderly subjects (n = 46, 61-86 years) and young subjects (n = 36, 18-25 years) in food perception and food liking were investigated. Intensity and liking ratings were assessed for custard dessert, in which flavor enrichment, textural change, and irritant addition were incorporated as strategies to compensate for sensory losses with increasing age. The sensory acuity (taste, olfaction, irritation, chewing efficiency) of both young and elderly subjects was measured with the help of different sensitivity tests. The elderly perceived the custards differently from the young, mainly as less intense in flavor (cherry/vanilla) and less intense in creaminess/swallowing effort. Several of the observed interaction effects were different for the elderly and the young. The majority of these differences manifested as lower intensity slopes for the elderly. Losses in sensitivity to taste and to olfactory and trigeminal stimuli as well as a reduced chewing efficiency were observed on average for the elderly compared with the young. Furthermore, subgroups of the elderly were observed in which the compensatory strategies flavor enrichment, textural change, and irritant addition led to an increase in food liking. However, these subgroups did not differ in their sensory acuity. The present study does not support the assumption that age-associated changes in food perception-caused by losses in sensory acuity-inevitably reduce the food liking of the elderly.

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