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Ask Tufts Experts September 2017 Issue

Q. I recently lost my sense of taste. I can taste spices somewhat. Can you tell me if and how I can get back my sense of taste?

A. Richard M. Dupee, MD, chief of geriatrics at Tufts Medical Center and a clinical professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, answers: "Some loss of your sense of taste (and smell, which also plays a significant role in recognizing flavors) is natural with aging, especially after age 60. This happens as the density and number of taste buds diminishes, which is not reversible.

"There are other factors that can contribute to loss of taste and smell, including nasal and sinus problems (such as allergies, sinusitis or nasal polyps), oral health problems, brain injury and deficiency of zinc (which is more common in vegetarians since top sources of this mineral are lean meats, poultry and some seafood, like oysters and lobster).

"Certain drugs also may impair sense of smell and taste, such as some cardiovascular and blood pressure medications, especially beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. If you're taking any medications, check with your doctor to determine if a particular medication is the culprit. Your doctor might be able to make a change to your medication regimen.

"There is a tendency to add more salt and sweeteners (especially sugar) to food to combat declining sense of taste, but that approach is not recommended and could be especially problematic in people with conditions such as hypertension, heart failure or diabetes. It is better to boost the use of herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of your food, and try foods with a variety of colors and textures to maximize enjoyment."

To learn more: The Consultant Pharmacist, May 2016

To learn more: Chemical Senses, January 2014

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