Health

What we like to eat is linked to our sense of smell & texture, claims expert

Ever wondered why you have acquired a taste for olives or blue cheese as you’ve matured? Or maybe you have a child who is a fussy eater and you can’t figure out how to get them to try new food?

Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist David Macintosh explains to The Healthy Mummy why we prefer different foods at different stages of our lives.

A biracial baby boy/ toddler sitting at the table and eating in a nursery setting.http://images.eu.viewbook.com/e4dc2466aaa35ecbcdd14f75226f8999.jpg
Source: iStock

What we like to eat is linked to our sense of smell & texture, claims expert

“Did you know that what we taste is actually more about what we smell? When we talk about what something tastes like, it is the combination of the taste buds and nose working together,” reveals David.

“If you have one but not the other, things will not “taste” the “same”. Over our lifetime, the sense of taste is pretty stable, but the sense of smell can and does change a lot.”

Eating Encompasses A Range Of Experience

David says that when it comes to eating, there is actually a whole range of experience that is part of the process.

“There is the physical appearance of the food that can bring enjoyment or repulsion, there is the aroma of the food, and then there is the point of putting it in our mouths,” he says. 

“At this stage the sense of taste gets the opportunity to contribute to the experience.

“Furthermore there is also the texture of the food that comes into the equation. As these experiences develop and progress over time, the psychological element starts to be engaged, and while any of us could actually physically eat pretty much anything from the list of the world cuisines, we are conditioned to stick to what we are most familiar with.

As a result, we all have different ‘acquired tastes’.”

An adorable baby boy eating his food
Source: iStock

There May Be Other Reasons Behind Why Our Kids Don’t Like Certain Foods

And David reveals when it comes to having fussy children, there may be other reasons behind why they gravitate to certain types of foods. 

Things such as having a blocked nose can diminish a sense of smell, and children that have blocked airways, due to things like big tonsils, may tend to eat softer foods.

“There are some important things to make sure are not missed. Any physical problems that compromise the act of swallowing or diminish their ability to smell may result in food avoidance,” he says.

“For example, we know that children with blocked noses that snore and mouth breathe have a diminished sense of smell, and hence tend to go towards the foods that stimulate the taste buds more (that is why sugar laden foods become popular, as the brain is looking for something that brings enjoyment to the table), and children that have a blocked airway from big tonsils will tend to go with the softer foods as the more solid ones just can not go down past them.”

Puckered baby refusing eating and sitting in highchair for feeding
Source: iStock

Another thing to look out for is a tongue tie, where the food can not be pushed to the back of the throat properly.

“I see lots of so-called fussy children in my clinic and in many circumstances it is a symptom of an underlying pathology that simple treatments can make a big difference to.

“The biggest clue to this is the presence of snoring or mouth breathing, and our clinic specialises in comprehensive assessment of these problems in children (and adults for that matter too).”

If you want to assess your fussy eater for any of these symptoms, then we advise you go and see your GP or ENT specialist.

However, fussy eating doesn’t necessarily have to be linked to anything other than the fact that most children go through this phase. Whether it’s picking at their at their meal before pushing it away, eating a few things from their plate, or flatly refusing to eat at meal times.

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