Food is one of the greatest pleasures in my life, so naturally I discuss it often. Recently I got into a discussion about how people’s food of choice can change over the years. This conversation led me to think of my older brother, who has been a picky eater all of his life. Lately, he has been very slightly opening up his horizons and starting to eat a couple things that would almost make him throw up in the past. The reverse is also present in my older sister. Foods that use to be her favorite during early childhood now put a look of disgust on her face. All of this changing going on makes me want to know if taste buds change over time.
On the surface, taste seems like a basic concept, but it is a little more complex than meets the eye. According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, our sense of taste is combined with what we smell.This is why sometimes being sick suppresses our sense of taste. The whole tasting process starts with sensory cells, of which there are many on each taste bud. Sensory cells have proteins on the end of them that connect to the chemicals in what goes into our taste buds. Then, cranial nerves take what was received to the brain stem where they go on to merge with our sense of smell to give us the delightful experience of taste. These tastes are classified into five possible categories; sweet, savory, salty, bitter, and sour. Also, we taste with multiple areas in and around our mouth, not just the tongue. The basic understanding of taste is important so I can build from here.
Even I do not eat all of the same foods as I did in the past. Amanda Greene cites Dr, Bartoshuck as explaining how long taste buds last. He says they only live for 10-14 days. This means not only do not just change as I had hypothesized, but they actually die and are replaced with entirely new ones. Ediblefeast.com lists a variety of reasons our taste changes over the years. First of all, kids have a stronger sense of smell to go along with their taste as a natural instinct. Our childhood taste is to avoid possibly harmful foods, and get a lot of nutrients. When we age, our taste buds do not reproduce as much and our sense of smell is not as good. Also, overtime we can train ourselves to like or dislike certain foods. Taste is definitely not set in stone.
I now have a better understanding of why food preference is not always the same. Fortunately for picky eaters such as my brother, if some people wait it out, or work to train themselves, more food options can become desirable. Taste is not only different from person to person but from time to time within each person. The next time I try a new food, I will keep my sense of smell and taste buds in mind.