The effect of ageing on taste perception: a systematic review
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Taste perception has been studied frequently in young and older adult groups. This paper systematically reviews these studies to determine the effect of ageing on taste perception and establish the reported extent of sensory decline. Five databases were searched from 1900 to April 2012. Articles relating to healthy ageing in humans were included, reviewed and rated (Downs and Black scoring system). Sixty nine studies investigated the effect of ageing on taste perception; 40 examined detection thresholds of which 23 provided sufficient data for meta-analysis, 18 reported identification thresholds and 25 considered supra-threshold intensity perception. Researchers investigating detection thresholds considered between 1 and 13 taste compounds per paper. Overall, the consensus was that taste detection thresholds increased with age (hedges g = 0.91, p=<0.001), across all taste modalities. Identification thresholds were reported to be higher for older adults in 17 out of 18 studies. Sixteen out of 25 studies reported perception of taste intensity at supra-threshold levels to be significantly lower for older adults. However, 6 out of 9 studies concerning sucrose found perceived intensity of sweet taste not to diminish with age. The findings of this systematic review suggest taste perception declines during the healthy ageing process, although the extent of decline varies between studies. Overall, the studies reviewed had low Downs and Black scores (mean 16 ± 2) highlighting the need for more robust large scale and longitudinal studies monitoring the impact of ageing on the sensory system, and how this influences the perception of foods and beverages.