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Taste acuity in response to zinc in older Europeans

Taste acuity declines with age and may be dependent upon zinc (Zn) status. The aim of this double-blind, randomised controlled intervention trial has been to determine taste acuity in response to Zn (15 or 30mgs per day). Healthy older European adults aged 55-87 years were recruited to the European Commission funded Zenith project within Italy (n = 108, 70-87 years), the United Kingdom (UK) (n = 93, 55-70 years) and two regions of France, Grenoble (n = 91, 70-87 years) and Clermont-Ferrand (n=95, 55-70 years). A Signal Detection Theory (SDT) approach was adopted for taste threshold assessment.

The data were converted to R-indices and analysed by repeated measures ANOVA controlling for baseline Zn status. Serum Zn status improved post-intervention in all four samples. Sweet taste acuity improved in response to Zn 30mgs in the group recruited in Rome (aged 70-87 years). Salt taste acuity improved in response to Zn 30mgs in those (aged 70-87 years) sampled in Grenoble. In younger individuals (aged 55-70 years) recruited in Clermont Ferrand, sweet taste acuity appeared to decline in response to Zn (30mgs). Supplemented Zn had no affect upon taste acuity in those individuals (aged 55-70 years) recruited in Northern Ireland. There appear to be regional differences in taste response to Zn, which appear independent of differences in baseline Zn status. Further research is required to determine the degree to which these differences are dietary related.

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Jaqueline Mary OCONNOR, (Head of Unit)
Tel.: +44-2870-324186
Fax: +44-2870-324965
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