Do taste buds degrade over time?

That is, do objectionable tastes become less objectionable as you grow older? When I was a kid I detested broccoli, green pepper, green olives, mayonnaise, and all sorts of random stuff. Now I love broccoli and olives, really like bell peppers of all colors, spread mayo on stuff and enjoy it, etc…

In fact, the only common foods I seem to miss out on these days are peaches (edible, but why on earth does anybody spend money on this crap?) and caraway seeds (THESE ARE THE DEVILS SPAWN DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE) I love seedless rye bread but the seeded stuff? :barfsmiley:

Do you enjoy foods you once loathed? Can I ever learn to love peaches or tolerate caraway seeds?

Taste buds do indeed change over time. A study recently confirmed that you basically can’t get things too sweet for children; they will always add and want more sugar. (Quite literally.) This goes away of course as we become adults.

Also since I believe this has a factual answer I’m moving it to General Questions, from IMHO.

I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not.

The fact that many people’s gustatory preferences change over time is really not evidence that there has been a change in their taste buds, let alone that they have “degraded”. A child who once liked the songs of Barney the Dinosaur might grow up to appreciate Mozart, or Stockhausen, or Nine Inch Nails. Does that mean that their ears have changed? If someone once liked the paintings of Thomas Kinkade, but has now come to prefer Picasso or Rothko, are we to believe that their eyes have changed?

No doubt there are diseases that can affect the sensitivity of the taste buds, but, short of that (and the general degradation that comes with old age and death), I am fairly confident that the answer to the title question is “no”.

My father, who made it to 93 told me that both his sense of taste and smell ‘wore out’ and food was much less enjoyable. He had suffered from long term sinus infections - both he and his doctor claimed that loss of smell was the biggest culprit.

I don’t have much to add besides that I hope that you have tried eating peaches that were not from a grocery store. I have grown up near peach farms and fresh peaches are Heaven. Those things they sell in the grocery store (NE US) taste like cardboard. They are not enjoyable at all. I just have given up on them.

This is quite possible true - smell is extremely important to taste. Arguably the two senses are more like one very extended sense.

Consider that it’s hard to figure out exactly what changes over time – the taste buds themselves, the nose that does the lion’s share of what we think of as tasting, or the bits of brain attached to them. Certainly the bits of brain change as they get connected to exponentially more experiences, and one’s taste in taste matures.

Peaches are extremely variable. They’re one of those things, like satsumas, that are a total lottery. One week you buy them and they’re delicious, the next they are fibrous, dry and tasteless with seemingly no reason.

No, not sarcastic. I will try and find the study, which said that children don’t have a top end for sweet. Adults, even those that like sweet things, will ultimately find a threshold of “too sweet” and reject it. Not so for kids.

I wish I could remember the impetus for the study; maybe I could find it more readily. I heard it on NPR one morning when my caffeine level was fairly low.

Well that wasn’t hard: Kids’ Sugar Cravings Might Be Biological

I know young humans (I’m guessing 0-3 years) and pregnant women have a heightened sense of taste. So if you compare birth -> childhood, the sense of taste definitely does decrease in sensitivity. At the same time, as you age, all your senses go (I’m assuming after 60 years, not sure if it starts sooner). So taste sensitivity also decreases in old age.

The question is the middle of the graph. Does it continuously decrease (unless you get pregnant), or does it plateau in the middle?
Is it like:
Or: [sup][/sup]—[sub][/sub]?

And even if true, it is unlikely that any such changes are a consequence of changes in the taste buds themselves, rather than in the brain.

Again, do you have a cite that, in the absence of specific disease, sensory sensitivity decreases in old age? It is true that people’s sight and hearing usually gets worse as they get old, but that is because the eyes and ears are particularly complex sense organs,and there are lots of little diseases that can affect them and in various ways degrade their usefulness. I would be surprised, however, to learn (for instance) that the sensitivity of the photoreceptor cells in the eye changes significantly with age. What degrades is stuff like the number of functioning receptors, how transparent the cornea and the interior of the eye are, how well the light is focused, and perhaps how efficiently the brain deploys the eye and analyzes the information it returns.

The organ of taste is much simpler, and, consequently, there is much less to go wrong. Eventually, I guess, you may start losing taste buds, but, again, I see no reason why would expect the sensitivity of individual buds to change significantly over time (which was what the original question was ostensibly about).

Here is what the NIH website says
"The number of taste buds decreases as you age. Each remaining taste bud also begins to lose mass (atrophy). Sensitivity to the four tastes often declines after age 60. Usually salty and sweet tastes are lost first, followed by bitter and sour tastes. In addition, your mouth produces less saliva as you age. This causes dry mouth, which can affect your sense of taste.

Sense of smell can diminish, especially after age 70. This may be related to loss of nerve endings in the nose and to less mucus being produced in the nose. Mucus helps odors stay long enough to be detected by the nerve endings. It also helps clear odors from the nerve endings."