Washington: Our taste preferences may change with age, a new study on mice suggests.
Japanese researchers found that taste preference changes in different life stages of rats.
Ageing elicits changes in taste preferences and such changes appear to be independent of taste nerve activity, researchers said.
In humans and animals ageing decreases dietary and energy requirements and it is generally believed that reduced consumption is related to alterations in taste preference.
However, the mechanisms underlying an age-induced shift in taste preference remain unclear. Thus, the researchers investigated differences in fluid intake and taste nerve responses across different age groups of rats.
The researchers initially measured the intake of sweet, salty, umami, sour or bitter taste solutions in 5 age groups; juvenile, young-adult, adult, middle-aged and old-aged male rats.
The result showed that older animals exhibit a decreased preference for sweet and umami taste and a reduced aversion to bitter taste.
Additional behavioural studies examined whether ageing alters taste thresholds by measuring the consumption of simultaneously presented high- and low-concentrated taste solutions. This revealed that taste sensitivity is lower in older rats.
To elucidate the neural mechanisms of such age-related changes in taste preference and sensitivity, electrophysiological experiments examined taste response characteristics of chorda tympani nerves.
These nerves mediate gustatory information from the tongue to the brainstem. The researchers observed no significant differences in activity of the chorda tympani nerves by taste stimuli across the different age groups.
Overall, these behavioural and electrophysiological studies demonstrate that age-related changes in taste preference and sensitivity are independent of the peripheral gustatory system.
"To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating a reduced aversion to bitter taste in aged rats," said lead author of the study, Chizuko Inui-Yamamoto from Osaka University in Japan.
"Our studies showed that ageing elicited no changes in transmission of taste information from the tongue to the central nervous system.
Thus, our future work will investigate the role of the central nervous system in mediating age-induced changes in taste preference," said Inui-Yamamoto.
The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) in US.