The three factors that influence our appreciation of foods are taste, texture, and smell.
The factor which has the most influence on taste is the sense of smell. It is believed that the sense of smell is responsible for roughly 90 percent of our ability to taste flavor (Alterra, 2002). Often we smell food long before we see it or taste it, and are attracted by the smell. Food can smell appetizing, and tempt us to eat even when we are not hungry, for example when you pass a hamburger stand and smell the burgers and fries cooking. The aromas which emanate from a fresh bakery are always appealing. These types of aromas can be smelled from afar and tempt us even before we see the food itself or taste it.
The sense of smell is at its peak during the 30s, 40s, and 50s, and after age 60, both the sense of taste and the sense of smell gradually begin to decline in most people as part of the normal aging process (Alterra, 2002). Factors such as smoking, infections (colds, flu, and sinus infections), illness (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease) radiation therapy, head trauma, brain tumors, chemical exposure, and drugs all diminish the sense of smell (Alterra, 2002; Taste, 2004). Taking several drugs at the same time has been shown to diminish the senses of taste. Research has shown that patients who are taking several medications at the same time may need almost 12 times as much salt and three times as much sugar to get the same taste sensation as someone not taking any medications.
Both taste and smell are stimulated by chemical molecules (Taste, 2004). Tastes are detected by special structures called taste buds. Humans have roughly 10,000 taste buds, distributed mainly on the tongue, with a few at the back of the throat and on the palate. Taste buds surround pores within the protuberances on the surface of the tongue and elsewhere. There are four types of taste buds, each capable of detecting a different type of ta...