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The Taste and Smell Clinic

January 2020

Importance of Smell and Taste Loss in Aging

There are two important aspects of taste and smell loss in aging — one aspect, devastatingly negative, the other, positive and physiologically relevant to longevity.

The first aspect, the devastating aspect of taste and smell loss relates to the devastating effects of loss of taste and smell on food and drink intake. These losses cause people to decrease their intake of food and drink because food and drink have lost their sensory function — there is little flavor from food and drink with subsequent loss of interest in eating and drinking. These losses are associated with loss of social contact associated with the intake of food and drink. People eat less, lose weight, and lose social contact associated with eating and drinking. This aspect is also exacerbated with the associated onset of distortions of intake of food and drink associated with these losses.

On the other hand, the second aspect of these losses are positive and relate to the physiological aspects of decreased food and drink intake associated with increased longevity and decreased onset of various disease processes such as diabetes, cancer and neurological dysfunction. Indeed, some aspects of loss of taste and smell are associated with normal aging and may be biologically beneficial.

How these two diverse aspects are related, one quite negative, the other quite positive are unclear. Both of these aspects have not been previously defined — this being the first formulation of these aspects — one related to the devastating, negative aspect of life enjoyment and personal pleasure, the other related to the positive effect of taste and smell loss associated with decreased food and fluid intake associated with positive effects of increased longevity and decreased onset of disease.