Food, Wine

How advanced age affects the palate

advanced age
advanced age

Aging is an inevitable process that begins at birth and continues until death.

Young people generally feel vigorous and energetic and the thought of losing both never enters their minds. With advanced age deterioration sets in – receding hairline, declining sight and hearing, as well as other kinds of discomforts.

After 60, the nose and brain take longer to identify aromas. As every wine drinker knows, 80 per cent of enjoyment of this cherished libation is smell. This is the reason why western hemisphere drinkers always smell fruits familiar to them i.e apples, pears apricots, peaches, berries, and citrus. Tropical fruits are mentioned in descriptions as “tropical fruits” rather than specific species.

For wine drinkers, recognition of aroma (the smell of fruit, and other categories) is crucial. There are thousands of aromas, but we only need one single molecule of an aroma to register it, providing that particular aroma was smelled and placed into the brain’s “aroma library”. Bouquet, on the other hand, originates from winemaking i.e yeast strains, length and vigour of fermentation, blending, aging in barrels and several other aspects. Some tasters refer to aroma and bouquet combined as the “nose”, which strictly speaking, are two entirely different aspects.

Flavour is defined as the combination of aromas and taste. The ability of taste is the most stable of all senses.

A very small percentage of people lack the sense of smell, and another equally small percentage lacks the ability of detect flavours. To these unfortunate individuals, everything has no particular smell or flavour.

Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savoury aka umami are the five basic tastes. Taste buds are located clustered on the tongue, inside cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and in the throught. Taste receptors send perceived flavour impressions to the brain and that enables the individual to identify taste to either appreciate, or reject it. Taste buds disappear with age, but individuals perceive it less since they are located throughout the mouth. Scientists believe that texture perception compensates loss of taste buds.

Bitterness is the first sense to decline, perception of salt follows, then sour, and finally sweetness and savouries. Older people like to add more salt to their food as their taste perception declines; the extra salt in turn helps to increase blood pressure.

Ability of aroma detection varies from one individual to the next and it depends also on the environment. Same individuals retain their ability to taste after 60 through training, constant tasting and accumulated knowledge.

According to researchers the human palate has anywhere from 5000 to 10 000 taste buds, each of which contains 50 – 100 taste receptor cells.

Heavy drinkers lose their tasting ability.
Dry mouth also diminishes taste perception, but saliva helps to determine it.

Older wine drinkers appreciate highly aromatic and well extracted wines or liquids more than light and nuanced ones.

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