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Anosmia

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JanB
1048994.  Sat Jan 18, 2014 3:06 pm Reply with quote



In yesterday's edition, it was stated that if you are anosmic you have no sense of taste either. I know several anosmics including my 14 year old son and they can all taste. It depends on whether you are born with this condition or whether you acquire it through head injury I think. The anosmics I know were born with no sense of smell but taste appears unaffected.

 
Marsupial Bob
1050496.  Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:03 pm Reply with quote

My (admittedly third-hand) impression has always been that being anosmic severely blunts the experience of flavours, but does not actually damage the sense of taste. So someone who is born anosmic would only know 'flavour' as a phenomenon of taste without smell, and would appreciate it as such. Someone who has become anosmic later in life would have the memory of flavour as combined scent and taste, but would find that experience significantly decreased with the loss of smell.

The episode incorrectly conflates the sense of taste with the overall perception of flavour, and makes an incorrect blanket statement on top of that. I think the correct equivalent would be 'people who become anosmic later in life lose the ability to fully perceive flavour.' But then that doesn't have quite the same staccato charm as 'anosmics cannot taste.'

Relevant quote with source below:


Quote:
One reason for this lack of empathy and sympathy related to loss of the sens of smell, as Mair et al. (Mair et al., 1995) have pointed out, may be that flavour, incorrectly, is primarily associated with the sense of taste rather than that of smell. The assumption, presumably, is that because anosmics still have a sense of taste, their food flavour appreciation is not impaired. Flavour is a complex interaction of smell, taste, pH, temperature, food texture and mouth-feel, but it is to a very large degree dependent upon odour, and the statement ‘it tastes good’ really means ‘it smells good’. This universal smell/taste confusion is paradoxical. For example, people entering a restaurant and savouring the cooking smells coming from the kitchen will usually correctly involve the sense of smell and say ‘the food or the cooking smells good’. However, once the food arrives at their table they revert to saying ‘it tastes good’. Anosmic people forced to rely solely upon their sense of taste, which involves sweet, salty, bitter and sour, are truly in a position to appreciate the actual value of the sense of smell in the eating process. Interestingly, the smell/taste confusion is also often found in anosmics. When they come to the laboratory for testing, they often claim to have lost their sense of taste as well as their sense of smell. A demonstration that they still retain their taste sense is often felt by them to be little short of magical.


Van Toller (1999) "Assessing the Impact of Anosmia: Review of a Questionnaire's Findings." In Chem. Senses (1999) 24 (6): 705-712.

Full text available at http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/24/6/705.full

It's actually a surprisingly interesting read.

 
CharliesDragon
1050827.  Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:28 pm Reply with quote

It was an incorrect statement in and of itself, but I understood it as "Since they can't smell, they experience taste as just what comes from the tongue, not the combination of taste and smell other people experience." I had also read the first post on this thread before hearing it, so maybe I had an edge. Still, a lot of the incorrect statements made in the show people bring up here I haven't made much of when watching the show, because I've understood what they meant. It could still give false impressions to "casual viewers" who aren't as obsessed with weird information as I am, though.

 
ConorOberstIsGo
1051274.  Mon Jan 27, 2014 8:02 am Reply with quote

Chocolate is purely an aroma so an anosmic would presumably just taste butter and sugar, poor souls!

Pears must just be the same as apples to them too.

On a related note, I highly recommend this edition of ABC's All In The Mind all about the superhuman abilities of 'supertasters'. To work out how intensely they tasted foods, they asked subjects to compare a strong taste to the strongest pain they'd ever felt. Mind-blowingly those who rated it highest had an unusual and normally invisible physiological mutation....

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/mmmthats-tasty/2990534

 
RLDavies
1051298.  Mon Jan 27, 2014 10:04 am Reply with quote

Colin knew a man who had no sense of sweet taste, but could otherwise smell and taste normally (as far as anyone can tell how another person interprets smells and tastes).

According to him, oranges tasted the same as lemons but rather weaker, so he preferred to eat lemons. He tried ice cream once and found it utterly bland.

 
Caligari
1052613.  Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:59 pm Reply with quote

JanB wrote:


In yesterday's edition, it was stated that if you are anosmic you have no sense of taste either. I know several anosmics including my 14 year old son and they can all taste. It depends on whether you are born with this condition or whether you acquire it through head injury I think. The anosmics I know were born with no sense of smell but taste appears unaffected.


I had a playground accident that rendered me anosmic at the age of five, and I compensated for it by developing a finely tuned and subtle sense of taste. Perhaps I acquired the ability to detect aromas with my tongue, I don't know. At any rate, I'm a rather good cook and baker, and I can just as easily differentiate flavours whether or not I plug my nose.

I had an operation when I was 30 to correct my crushed nasal septum because I was starting to get headaches, and after that, I could, however faintly, smell citrus fruits, which I must admit is a pretty nice thing to be the only thing I can smell.

I'm sure that if I suddenly regained my full sense of smell, food would taste far too strong, and besides that, I find people obnoxious enough without having to smell them, too.

 

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