Decrease in or loss of taste

Decrease in or loss of taste is common in older adults. It is part of the normal aging process and may be caused by:

  • A decrease in the number of taste buds.
  • Changes in the way the nervous system processes the sensation of taste. This may cause a decline in the awareness of taste.
  • A decrease in the amount of saliva or an increase in the stickiness of saliva.
  • Changes in the tongue, making it harder for flavors to reach the taste buds.

Other factors that may cause a decrease or loss of taste include:

  • Loss of smell. Much of what is thought of as taste is actually smell.
  • Minor infections, such as a cold or flu.
  • Smoking or using smokeless (spit) tobacco.
  • Side effects of medication, surgery, or radiation therapy.
  • Nutritional deficiencies of zinc or vitamin B12.
  • Diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Bell's palsy, hepatitis, Sjögren's syndrome, and oral cancer.

Last Updated: September 26, 2008

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