Enjoying taste should be one of the greatest pleasures in human life. However, aging is sometimes associated with decreased taste sensitivity, also known as hypogeusia. The loss of taste not only affects quality of life, but can also cause weight loss and health problems in the elderly. Our recent study has shown that 37% of test subjects over 65 years of age exhibited hypogeusia. Further, whole saliva secretion, including minor salivary secretion, was significantly decreased in elderly patients with gustatory impairment, but was normal in all elderly subjects with normal taste thresholds. These data indicate that hyposalivation is closely related to hypogeusia. Moreover, clinical studies have shown that treatment of hyposalivation diminishes hypogeusia, indicating that salivation is essential to maintain normal taste function. However, many medications for relief of dry mouth, such as parasympathomimetic (cholinomimetic) drugs, have serious adverse effects. Palpitation, sweating, nausea, diarrhea and dizziness have all been observed in elderly patients taking parasympathomimetic drugs. To circumvent this problem, glutamate, which produces umami taste, was demonstrated to increase salivary secretion and thereby improve hypogeusia by enhancing the gustatory-salivary reflex. Our data suggests that umami is an effective tool for the relief of hypogeusia without the side effects of parasympathomimetic drugs.
- Reflex salivation
- Taste sensitivity