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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Nov;59 Suppl 2:S31-6.

Zinc status and taste acuity in older Europeans: the ZENITH study.

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Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland.



Age-related decline in taste acuity may be both a cause and an effect of depleted zinc and/or increased zinc requirement.


The aim of this study was to explore associations between zinc status and taste acuity in healthy older European adults aged 55-90 y.


Volunteers were recruited within Italy (n = 108 aged 70-90 y), the United Kingdom (UK) (n = 93 aged 55-70) and two regions of France (n = 186), Grenoble (aged 70-90 y) and Clermont-Ferrand (aged 55-70 y).


A signal detection theory approach was adopted, employing a three-alternative, forced-choice procedure. The data were converted to R-indices and bivariate correlations were computed to explore relationships between serum zinc, erythrocyte zinc and taste acuity. ANOVA was undertaken to determine regional differences in zinc status.


Higher erythrocyte zinc status was associated with better acuity for salt (sodium chloride) taste in the sample as a whole (P = 0.012) (n = 385). Higher serum zinc levels were associated with greater sensitivity to sour taste (citric acid) (P = 0.015) only in the older groups (aged 70-90 y). There were no apparent associations between serum or erythrocyte zinc status and acuity for bitter (quinine) or sweet (sucrose) tastes irrespective of age.


These results agree with those previously suggesting that age-related detriment in sensitivity for salt taste may be associated with depleted zinc.

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