Kristina S Fluitman, Anne C Hesp, Rachel F Kaihatu, Max Nieuwdorp, Bart JF Keijser, Richard G IJzerman, Marjolein Visser

The Journal of Nutrition, 2021 Mar 11;151(3):605-614

As we age, our taste and smell functions deteriorate. This is thought to contribute to poor appetite, decreased food intake, poorer dietary quality, and the development of undernutrition in older adults. In this study, we evaluated whether poor taste and smell were indeed associated with poor appetite, food intake, dietary quality, and the occurrence of undernutrition.

We recruited 359 Dutch older adults over 65 years old from the large, ongoing Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA). We collected all of our data during a single home visit at the participants’ homes between 2017 and 2018. Taste and smell function were measured with objective standardized tests, and were rated subjectively by the participants themselves. Poor appetite, food intake and dietary quality were assessed with two questionnaires: the Council of Nutrition Appetite Questionnaire (CNAQ) and a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). Undernutrition was defined as either >5% bodyweight loss over the previous 2 years, or a low BMI.

Of our 359 participants, 9.2% had poor taste, 17% had poor smell, 6.1% had poor appetite, and 2.1% suffered from undernutrition. Various associations were found of poor taste or smell with poor appetite, food intake, or dietary quality, but not with undernutrition. Both self-reported poor taste and smell were consistently associated with poor dietary quality.

Taste and smell impairments may have diverse consequences for appetite, food intake, or dietary quality. However, this does not necessarily translate into undernutrition.

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