Why does your taste change over time? When a child tastes spinach for the first time, he or she may make a disgusted grimace, but over time, the same youngster may come to accept the vegetable and, shock! even enjoy it. A person’s flavour preferences might change even after they’ve grown up. How can that happen, you might wonder?
Many variables influence our flavour preferences, including our genetics, our mothers’ meals during pregnancy, and our nutritional demands as children, according to Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist at Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center. However, our biology has little bearing on which meals we grow to love or dislike over time.
Why does your taste change over time?
According to a 2014 review done by Mennella and published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, learning to accept new flavours may be simpler in early infancy, before the age of three, but later children may need to try a new meal more times before learning to appreciate it. While toddlerhood may offer a unique window of opportunity for extending one’s taste, Mennella told Live Science, “I don’t think the window closes.”
So, regardless of our age, we can all learn to accept new flavours, but she cautioned that terrible memories of certain meals might be tough to overcome. (For example, after a severe stomach virus, you may feel nauseous just thinking about the meal that made you terrible.)
In addition to this ongoing learning process, as our senses of taste and smell become less sensitive with age, our flavour preferences in later life may shift, though flavour sensitivity is only one of several factors that shape elderly peoples’ food preferences, according to the latest report published in the journal Nutrition.
According to BrainFacts.org, a public education effort maintained by the Society for Neuroscience, our perception of flavour is influenced by both taste and smell. However, numerous other things, according to Mennella, determine whether we enjoy the flavour we’re tasting. Inherited, genetically determined taste preferences; physical qualities of a meal, such as texture or warmth; and past encounters with a certain flavour or comparable tastes are among these influences.
When we eat a snack, such as a piece of cheddar cheese, chemicals from the item pour into our mouth. Some of these molecules bind to taste receptors, which are found on the tongue, as well as the roof and rear of the mouth. At least five fundamental tastes are detected by these cells: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and meaty (savoury).
There are sweet and salt receptors, for example, and each taste receptor specialised in one of these broad flavour categories. That isn’t to suggest that all taste receptors in a given category react to identical flavour molecules. According to Live Science, people have 25 different types of bitter taste receptors; some detect only a few substances, while others are sensitive to a wide range, as Mennella pointed out.
Why does your taste change over time? Different people have slightly particular forms of each receptor, in varying levels, according to their heredity, which impacts their sensitivity to different tastes.
And, according to Live Science, the oral microbiome — the population of microorganisms that live in our mouths — may influence what compounds are released from our meal as we chew, and thus which receptors are activated in reaction to that food.
A single mouthful of cheese triggers a flurry of activity in taste receptors, which fire forth instructions to the brain. Simultaneously, some of the snack’s tiny, airborne molecules are whisked out of the mouth, down the throat, and into the nasal cavity, where they interact with scent receptors.
Some of the cheese’s odorous chemicals also make their way into the nostrils, the nose’s front entrance. When smell receptors are activated, they transmit a flood of impulses to the brain, which combines this information with that from taste receptors to produce the characteristic flavour of aged white cheddar.
Your taste changes over time according to Mennella, this early passion for sweetness is ubiquitous among primates because sweetness serves as a general signal for high-calorie diets that are essential for growth, development, and survival. Children, in comparison to adults, have a stronger preference for salt, an important mineral for brain and muscle function.
While sweetness and saltiness indicate beneficial qualities in meals, “bitter was most likely our signal for ‘Beware, this may do harm,'” Mennella said, implying that the flavour could indicate something dangerous or rotten.
However, evolution does not have complete control over our food choices in infancy; babies learn to appreciate different meals from the time their senses of taste and smell emerge in the womb, according to Mennella. According to a review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, foods and drinks taken during pregnancy “flavour” the amniotic fluid, exposing the embryo to novel flavours and transmitting information about which flavours are acceptable to consume.