Enjoy that delicious holiday food now, because eventually it may just be a reminder of what a honey baked ham used to taste like. And while that prospect is pretty sad, it’s also potentially dangerous. According to the New York Times, older people are less likely to smell gas leaks in their home, may eat considerably less than they need to, or may turn to overly salty or sweet junk food just to get a flavor kick, which can exacerbate health problems.
There are a few reasons why this decline hits around late-middle age, most of which have to with your nose, not your tongue. Taste buds do start dying off in women between 40 and 50 years old, and men between 50 and 60, but that doesn’t have as strong an effect as olfactory sensors that you lose in your nose. They’re typically replaced when one dies off, but just like skin cells, they’re less effectively reproduced as you age. On top of that, the nerve cells that carry information to your brain start to lose some of their zip, as well as the part of your brain responsible for detecting smell.
All of this often happens so slowly that many people don’t notice, but according to research work, people claimed their sense of smell and taste were fine were sometimes unable to smell certain odors… good news if you’re accustomed to riding the Red Line during Lollapalooza.