Danish researchers find people's sense of smell change with age

Danish researchers find people's sense of smell change with age

Not something to sniff at! Danish researchers find people’s sense of smell change with age, with coffee and bacon fading away once you pass 55

  • Researchers found smells of oranges, raspberries, and vanilla, had not faded
  • Scientists in Copenhagen managed to pin down which smells fade in a mass test
  • They hope the data will improve meals for malnourished care home residents 

Danish researchers have found people’s sense of smell changes as they get older and managed to to pin down which aromas get less pungent over time.

Aromas of coffee, and bacon fade away once you pass 55, but smells of oranges, raspberries, and vanilla remain powerful. 

Older people were also more likely to dislike coffee aromas, though they continued to enjoy smells of fried food.

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen managed to pin down which smells fade, and which do not, through an experiment comparing 343 people aged 20 to 98. 

Danish researchers have found people’s sense of smell changes as they get older and managed to to pin down that coffee and bacon aromas get less pungent over time 

They said the study showed people did not lose their sense of smell as they age, contrary to what science once suggested.   

Lead researcher Eva Honnens de Lichtenberg Broge said: ‘While their ability to smell fried meat, onions and mushrooms is markedly weaker, they smell orange, raspberry and vanilla just as well as younger adults. Thus, a declining sense of smell in older adults seems rather odor specific

‘What is really interesting is that how much you like an odour is not necessarily dependent on the intensity perception.’ 

Broge added: ‘This may be due to the fact that these are common food odours in which saltiness or umami is a dominant taste element. It is widely recognised that salty is the basic taste most affected by ageing. 

‘Since taste and smell are strongly associated when it comes to food, our perception of aroma may be disturbed if one’s taste perception of saltiness is impaired to begin with.’ 

The study, published in Food Quality and Preference, could be used to improve meals in nursing homes, where one in five residents are malnourished. 

Researchers hope their findings will also help improve meals in nursing homes, where one in five residents are malnourished

Researchers hope their findings will also help improve the dining experiences of older adults, especially as figures show half of over 65s admitted to hospital in Denmark were not getting the nutrients they needed. 

‘Our results show that as long as a food odour is recognisable, its intensity will not determine whether or not you like it’, Broge added. 

‘So, if one wants to improve food experiences of older adults, it is more relevant to pay attention to what they enjoy eating than it is to wonder about which aromas seem weaker to them’.

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