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fat, low salt or low sugar diets (unless medically advised) will
limit the aroma and flavour of a meal, as well as the amount of
calories which the older person may need to stay nourished.
If the food is tasteless, add flavour to food with flavourings
such as salt, garlic, cheese, bacon, herbs, soup mixes, chutneys,
pickles, spices, sugar or chocolate. You can also marinate
meat, fish poultry or tofu to add extra flavour. It is best to
encourage clients and residents to chew their food well because
mastication stimulates olfactory receptors and the resulting
sensation of odours.
If the mouth is dry, look into the use of a mouth lubricant
and ensure meals are moist by adding a gravy or sauce.
Encourage frequent sips of fluid with meals although be sure to
limit dehydrating fluids like caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
Cut food into bite-sized pieces which are easier to manage and
try tangy foods, such as lemons and other fruits, or fruit or mint
sweets to help stimulate the flow of saliva.
If you have a client or resident on a number of medications
and they report they have lost their sense of taste and smell,
check their medications. Arrange a GP or pharmacy review to
help with determining whether medications are the cause.
A focus on good oral hygiene is also essential when
attempting to improve an older person's ability to taste and smell
food. Older adults should keep their teeth and mouth clean by
flossing, brushing and rinsing often and staff must inform them if
their mouth is clean and moist as flavours are more distinct. Staff
should also ensure that clients receive regular dental check-ups
and address issues of ill fitting dentures or tooth decay as soon
It is important to remember a reduction in taste and smell as
we age can not only affect appetite leading to malnutrition but
can also lead to a reduced ability to be able to recognise spoiled
food. Ensure you keep check of what food is in your client's
fridge and encourage clients to discard food that has past the
"To prevent malnutrition
in older people living in the
community, we need to
not only address the issues
of depression...and social
isolation but also address
issues around loss of taste
MONITORING CHANGES IN A PERSON'S
ABILITY TO TASTE AND SMELL
Many of the common nutrition screening and assessment tools
used to detect malnutrition in older people unfortunately do not
take into consideration the affects of loss of taste and smell.
The Simplified Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire (SNAQ)
is one of very few tools that does take into account loss of taste
(2). The SNAQ used either in isolation or in conjunction with one
of the more common nutrition screening and assessment tools is
a relatively easy way of ensuring taste changes are monitored and
addressed in your clients.
To prevent malnutrition in older people living in the
community, we need to not only address the issues of depression,
medications that reduce appetite, chewing and swallowing
problems and social isolation but also address issues around loss
of taste and smell.
This will ensure the eating process is as enjoyable as possible,
thereby enhancing quality of life. n
Nicole Wiles is a community dietician for the Sydney
Local Health Network.
1. Wylie K, Nebauer M. "The Food Here Is Tasteless!" Food taste or tasteless food?
Chemosensory Loss and the Politics of Under-Nutrition. Collegian 2011; 18: 27-35.
2. Wilson MM, et al. Appetite assessment: simple appetite questionnaire predicts weight loss in
community-dwelling adults and nursing home residents. Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 82: 1074-81.
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