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Keywords:

  • taste ability;
  • taste strips;
  • hospitalized older people;
  • controls

Objective

To investigate whether taste ability is reduced in acutely hospitalised older people compared with healthy, age-matched, non- hospitalised controls.

Background

Proper gustatory function in older people is important for quality of life and enjoyment of food. Impaired taste may contribute to weight loss in elderly.

Material and Methods

Cross- sectional study. The participants comprised two groups with age ≥ 70 years. Older people hospitalised for acute disease, home-living prior to hospital admission and with adequate cognitive function (n = 174 with mean age = 84 years). The controls (n = 63, mean age 82 years) were home-living, and healthy by their own judgement. Whole mouth gustatory function was assessed with taste strips impregnated with sweet, sour, bitter and salty taste solutions in four different concentrations each. Correct identifications were summarized, and maximum total score was 16.

Results

Total taste score was reduced in the hospitalised group compared with the control group (p = 0.035). The difference was mainly due to reduced ability to detect sour and bitter taste qualities (p < 0.001 and p = 0.003).

Conclusion

Acutely hospitalised older people had significantly reduced taste ability compared with non-hospitalised controls. Sour and bitter taste qualities were mostly affected. Hospital staff should pay attention to these findings when preparing food for hospitalised older people.