Date of Award:

1997

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Advisor/Chair:

Charlotte P. Brennand

Abstract

With aging, there is a putative loss of taste and smell that may lead to decreased food enjoyment. We determined the relationships among age, detection, and recognition thresholds for taste and smell, and preference for flavored milk.

Ninety young (20-40 years) and 90 elderly (over 64 years) subjects evaluated chocolate mint-, lemon-, or strawberry-flavored milk. Detection and recognition thresholds were determined for sucrose and for the assigned flavor in milk systems. Sucrose was dissolved in milk, and flavors were dispersed in milk with flavor identification. Preference was determined using a 9-point hedonic scale to evaluate all combinations of five sucrose and five flavor levels in milk. Subjects also answered a questionnaire regarding individual chemosensory function, sweet beverage enjoyment, general perception of food flavors, and circumstances that might influence their taste and smell function.

Compared to young, elderly had higher detection and recognition thresholds for the tastant sucrose for the olfactants lemon and strawberry, and for the olfactory/trigeminal stimulant of chocolate mint in milk systems. This suggest elderly have lower chemosensory function regarding taste, smell, and trigeminal sense. Differences between detection and recognition thresholds were larger for elderly than for young subjects, especially for flavors, implying cognitive as well as sensory losses with aging.

Despite lower chemosensory function, elderly did not report greater taste or smell dysfunction. The loss of chemosensory function may be too gradual to be noticed. Elderly also did not complain about foods and beverages more than young. Most said foods in general were "just right

The loss of chemosensory function with aging may not be great enough to alter food perception. Elderly preferred equal or lower levels of sucrose and flavors. In addition, high detection and recognition thresholds were not related to preference for higher levels of any stimulant. Elderly also did not make more comments regarding flavor weakness. The active, healthy elderly probably do not require increased flavor levels for optimal food enjoyment.

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