Skip to main content

Taste acuity in response to zinc supplementation in older Europeans

  • Barbara J. Stewart-Knox (a1), Ellen E.A. Simpson (a1) (a2), Heather Parr (a1), Gordon Rae (a2), Angela Polito (a3), Federica Intorre (a3), Maud Andriollo Sanchez (a4), Natalie Meunier (a5), Jacqueline M. O'Connor (a1), Giuseppe Maiani (a3), Charles Coudray (a5) and J. J. Strain (a1)...

Taste acuity declines with age and may be dependent upon Zn status. The aim of the present double-blind, randomised controlled intervention trial has been to determine taste acuity in response to Zn supplementation (placebo, or 15 or 30 mg Zn/d). Healthy older European adults aged 70–87 years were recruited within Italy (Rome) (n 108) and France (Grenoble) (n 91) to the European Commission-funded Zenith project. A signal detection theory approach was adopted for taste assessment. The data were converted to R indices and analysed by repeated-measures ANOVA controlling for baseline taste acuity as well as serum and erythrocyte Zn. Serum Zn increased post-intervention, indicating compliance with the intervention. Results differed across geographical region. Salt taste acuity was greater in response to Zn (30 mg) than placebo post-intervention among those recruited in Grenoble. There was no apparent change in acuity for sweet, sour or bitter taste in response to Zn. Supplemented Zn may have potential to enhance salt taste acuity in those over the age of 70 years. Further research is required to determine if enhanced salt taste acuity is reflected in the eating experiences of older individuals.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Taste acuity in response to zinc supplementation in older Europeans
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Taste acuity in response to zinc supplementation in older Europeans
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Taste acuity in response to zinc supplementation in older Europeans
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Barbara Stewart-Knox, fax +44 28 70324965, email
Hide All
1 Maes M, deVos N, Wauters A, et al. (1999) Inflammatory markers in younger versus elderly normal volunteers. J Psychiat Res 33, 397405.
2 Seiler WO, Itin P & Stahelin HB (2002) Zinc deficiency, a problem of old age frequently not recognised. Ernahrungs-Umschau 49, 260.
3 Cid-Ruzafa J, Caulfield LE, Barron Y & West SK (1999) Nutrient intakes and adequacy among an older population the eastern shore of Maryland. J Am Diet Assoc 99, 546571.
4 Kant AK & Schatzkin A (1999) Relation of age and self reported chronic medical condition status with dietary nutrient intake in the US population. J Am Coll Nutr 18, 6976.
5 Sanders OG, Ayers JV & Oakes S (2002) Taste acuity in the elderly: the impact of threshold, age, gender, medication, health and dental problems. J Sensory Studies 17, 89104.
6 Mojet J, Christ-Hazelhof E & Heidema J (2001) Taste perception with age: generic or specific losses in threshold sensitivity to the five basic tastes. Chem Senses 26, 845860.
7 Bales CW, Steinman LC, Freelandgraves JH, Stone JM & Young RK (1986) The effect of age on plasma zinc uptake and taste acuity. Am J Clin Nutr 44, 664669.
8 Bartoshuk LM, Rifkin B, Marks LE & Bars P (1986) Taste and ageing. J Gerontol 41, 5157.
9 Schiffman SS (1993) Perception of taste and smell in elderly persons. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 33, 1726.
10 Murphy C (1993) Nutrition and chemosensory perception in the elderly. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 33, 315.
11 Stewart-Knox BJ, Simpson E, Parr H, et al. (2005) Zinc status and taste acuity in European older adults. Eur J Clin Nutr 59, Suppl. 2, S31S36.
12 Watanabe M, Asatsuma M, Ikui A, Ikeda M, Yamada Y, Nomura S & Igarashi A (2005) Measurements of several metallic elements and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP's) in saliva from patients with taste disorder. Chem Senses 30, 121125.
13 Tanaka M (2002) Secretory function of the salivary gland in patients with taste disorders or xerostomia: correlation with zinc deficiency. Acta Ota-Laryng 122, 134141.
14 Yokoi K, Egger NG, Ramanujam VMS, Alcock NW, Dayal HH, Penland JG & Sandstead HH (2003) Association between plasma zinc and zinc kinetic parameters in premenopausal women. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 285, E1010E1020.
15 Thatcher BJ, Doherty AE, Orvisky E, Martin BM & Henkin RI (1998) Gustin from human parotid saliva is carbonic anhydrase VI. Biochem Biophys Res Comm 250, 635641.
16 Pluhator MM, Thomson ABR & Fedorak RN (1996) Clinical aspects of trace elements: zinc in human nutrition - assessment of zinc status. Canad J Gastroenterol 10, 3742.
17 Konukoglu D, Turhan MS, Ercan M & Serin O (2004) Relationship between plasma leptin and zinc levels and the effect of insulin and oxidative stress on leptin levels in obese diabetic patients. J Nutr Biochem 15, 757760.
18 Shay NF & Mangian HF (2000) Neurobiology of zinc-influenced eating behaviour. J Nutr 130, Suppl. 5S, 1493S1499S.
19 Rolls B (1999) Do chemosensory changes influence food intake in the elderly? Physiol Behav 66, 193197.
20 Little KY, Castellanos X, Humphries LL & Austin J (1989) Altered Zn metabolism in mood disordered patients. Biol Psychiatry 26, 646648.
21 Kettaneh A, Fain O, Stirnemann J & Thomas M (2002) Taste disorders (article in French). Rev Med Interne 23, 622631.
22 Tomita H & Yoshikawa T (2002) Drug-related taste disturbances. Acta Ota-Laryng 122, 116121.
23 Yamagata T, Nakamura Y, Yamagata Y, Nakanishi M, Matsunaga K, Nakanishi H, Nishimoto T, Minakata Y, Mune M & Yikawa S (2003) The pilot trial of the prevention of the increase in electrical taste thresholds by zinc containing fluid infusion during chemotherapy to treat primary lung cancer. J Exp Clin Cancer Res 22, 557563.
24 Stoll AL & Oepen G (1994) Zinc salts for the treatment of olfactory and gustatory symptoms in psychiatric patients – a case series. J Clin Psychiatry 55, 309311.
25 Heckmann SM, Hujoel P, Habiger S, Friess W, Wichmann M, Heckmann JG & Hummel T (2005) Zinc gluconate in the treatment of dysgeusia – a randomized clinical trial. J Dental Res 84, 3538.
26 Takeda N, Takaoka T, Ueda C, Toda N, Kalubi B & Yamamoto S (2004) Zinc deficiency in patients with idiopathic taste impairment with regard to angiotensin converting enzyme activity. Auris Nasus Larynx 31, 425428.
27 Ripamonti C, Zecca E, Brunelli C, Fulfaro F, Villa S, Balzarini A, Bombardieri E & de Conno F (1998) A randomised controlled clinical trial to evaluate the effects of zinc sulphate on cancer patients with taste alterations caused by head and neck irradiation. Cancer 82, 19381945.
28 Rikkert MGMO & Rigaud AS (2003) Malnutrition research: high time to change the menu. Age Ageing 32, 241243.
29 Bloomfield RS, Graham BG, Schiffman SS & Killenberg PG (1999) Alteration in chemosensory function in end-stage liver disease. Physiol Behav 66, 203207.
30 McClean CJ, McClain M, Barve S & Boosalis MG (2002) Trace metals and the elderly. Clin Geriatr Med 18, 801818.
31 Mojet J, Heidema J & Christ-Hazelhof E (2003) Taste perception with age: generic or specific losses in supra threshold intensities of five taste qualities. Chem Senses 28, 397413.
32 Spitzer ME (1988) Taste acuity in institutionalised and non-institutionalised elderly men. J Gerontol 43, 7174.
33 Cooper RM, Bilash I & Zubek JP (1959) The effect of age on taste sensitivity. J Gerontol 14, 5658.
34 Polito A, Meunier N, Andriollo-Sanchez M, et al. (2005) Screening and recruitment procedure of late-middle aged and older subjects. The Zenith study. Eur J Clin Nutr 59, Suppl. 2, S8S12.
35 Milne DB, Davis CD & Nielsen FH (2001) Low dietary zinc alters indices of copper function and status in postmenopausal women. Nutr 17, 701708.
36 Solomons NW (1986) Competitive interaction of iron and zinc in the diet: consequences for human nutrition. J Nutr 116, 927935.
37 Yesavage JA, Brink TL, Rose TL, Lum O, Huang V, Adey M & Leirer VO (1983) Development and validation of a geriatric depression screening scale: a preliminary report. J Psychiatr Res 17, 3749.
38 Folstein MF, Folstein SE & McHugh PR (1975) Mini Mental State: a practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. J Psychiat Res 12, 189198.
39 Andriollo-Sanchez M, Hininger-Favier I, Meunier N, et al. (2005) Zinc intake and status in middle-aged and older European Subjects: the Zenith study. Eur J Clin Nutr 59, Suppl. 2, S37S41.
40 Arnaud J, Bellanger J, Bienvenu F, Chappuis P & Favier A (1986) Recommended method for assaying serum zinc with flame atomic absorption. Ann Biol Clin 44, 7787.
41 Schiffman SS & Graham BG (2000) Taste and smell perception affect appetite and immunity in the elderly. Eur J Clin Nutr 54, Suppl. 3, S54S63.
42 Bischmann DA & Witte KL (1996) Food identification, taste complaints, and depression in younger and older adults. Exp Ageing Res 22, 2332.
43 Green DM & Swets JA (1966) Signal Detection Theory and Psychophysics. New York: Wiley.
44 O'Mahony M (1972) Salt taste sensitivity: a signal detection approach. Perception 1, 459464.
45 O'Mahony M (1992) Understanding discrimination tests: a user-friendly treatment of response bias, rating and ranking R-index tests and their relationship to signal detection. J Sens Stud 7, 147.
46 Delwiche J & O'Mahony M (1996) Flavour discrimination: an extension of the Thurstonian “paradoxes” to the tetrad method. Food Qual Pref 7, 15.
47 Goldstein EB (2002) Sensation and Perception, 6th ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth-Thomson.
48 Lucas F & Bellisle F (1987) The measurement of food preferences in humans: do taste and spit tests predict consumption? Physiol Behav 39, 739743.
49 Brown J (1974) Recognition assessed by rating and ranking. Br J Psychol 65, 1322.
50 O'Mahony M, Gardner L, Long D, Heintz C, Thompson B & Davies M (1979) Salt taste detection: an R-index approach to signal-detection measurements. Perception 8, 497506.
51 McDaid O, Stewart-Knox B, Parr H & Simpson E (2007) Dietary zinc intake and sex differences in taste acuity in young adults. J Hum Nutr Diet 20, 103110.
52 Bingham SA, Cassidy A, Cole TJ, et al. (1995) Validation of weighed records and other methods of dietary assessment using the 24 h urine nitrogen technique and other biological markers. Br J Nutr 73, 531559.
53 Gibney MJ, MacDonald IA & Roche HM (2003) Nutrition and Metabolism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
54 Livingstone MBE & Black AE (2003) Markers of the validity of reported energy intake. J Nutr 133, Suppl. 3, S895S920.
55 Nelson M, Black AE, Morris JA & Cole TJ (1989) Between and within subject variation in nutrient intake from infancy to old age: estimating the number of days required to rank dietary intakes with desired precision. Am J Clin Nutr 50, 155167.
56 Rodriguez-Palmero M, Castellote-Bargallo AI, Lopez-Sabater C, de la Torre-Boronat C & Rivero-Urgell M (1998) Assessment of dietary nutrient intakes: analysed vs calculated values. Food Chem 61, 215221.
57 Moon CS, Zhang ZW, Shimbo S, Hokimoto S, Shimazaki K, Saito T, Shimizu A, Imai Y, Watanabe T & Ikeda M (1996) A comparison of the food composition table-based estimates of dietary element intake with the values obtained by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry: an experience in a Japanese population. J Trace Elem Med Biol 10, 237244.
58 Maret W & Sandstead HH (2006) Zinc requirements and the risk and benefits of zinc supplementation. J Trace Elem Med Biol 20, 318.
59 Ma J & Betts NM (2000) Zinc and copper intakes and their major food sources for older adults in the 1994-96 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII). J Nutr 130, 28382843.
60 MacDonald BA, Watts BM & Fitzpatrick DW (1993) Comparison of taste thresholds in selected Canadian and Peruvian populations. Ecol Food Nutr 30, 241251.
61 Garrow JS, James WPT & Ralph A (2000) Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 10th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
62 Davis CD, Milne DB & Nielsen FH (2000) Changes in dietary zinc and copper affect zinc status indicators of postmenopausal women, notably, extracellular superoxide dismutase and amyloid precursor proteins. Am J Clin Nutr 71, 781788.
63 Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2000) Zinc. In Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc, pp. 442–501 Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
64 Briefel RR, Bialostosky K, Kennedy-Stephenson J, McDowell MA & Wright JD (2000) Zinc intake of the US population: findings from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. J Nutr 130, Suppl. 5S, 1367S1373S.
65 Marshall JA & Yanik MM (2001) Synthesis of a C1-C21 subunit of the protein phosphatase inhibitor tautomycin: a formal total; synthesis. J Organic Chem 66, 13731379.
66 European Commission Scientific Committee on Food (2003) Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of Zinc. Brussels: European Commission Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General.
67 Sandström B (2001) Considerations in estimates of requirements and critical intake of zinc adaptation, availability and interactions. Analyst 120, 913915.
68 Hininger-Favier I, Andriollo-Sanchez M, Arnaud J, et al. (2007) Age and sex-dependent effects of long-term zinc supplementation on essential trace element status and lipid metabolism in European subjects. The Zenith study. Br J Nutr 97, 569578.
69 Ryan-Crowe V (1980) Taste acuity response to zinc supplementation in hemodialysis patients. Dissertation Abstr Int 41, 148149.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 34 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 270 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.