If you’re a fan of fine wine, good food and sweet treats, you may not welcome the news that the number of taste buds on the tongue actually decreases as you get older. While this may seem like mild inconvenience or just one reason why to add a little more hot sauce to your morning eggs, the fewer taste buds you have may lead to an increase in your fasting blood sugar level, according to a new study.
This relationship could help explain way so many seniors have started to develop type 2 diabetes, suggest researchers from the National Institute of Aging.
Researchers discovered that the remaining number of taste buds on the tongue has a connection to an individual’s age and how the body processes sugar, reported the NIA in a recent report to the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2012, 9.3 percent of Americans suffered from type 2 diabetes. The number of seniors suffering from the disease was even higher, as 25 percent of seniors over the age of 65 have type 2 diabetes.
Existing research has previously shown that individuals with type 2 diabetes and their relatives suffer from taste buds that don’t properly sense sweetness. Based on this, researchers decided to examine whether individuals lose the number of taste buds they have as they age, as has been previously observed in experiments involving rodents.
As part of the study, researchers collected data from 353 adults relating to blood sugar, body mass index and the number of remaining taste buds.
Surprisingly simple, measuring the number of taste buds an individual has remaining only requires that they swish around a blue dye. While the tongue turns blue, taste buds don’t absorb the die and show up at little pink dots, which researchers then counted.
Preliminary results backup researchers’ initial theory that the number of taste buds may factor in how the body handles sugar during the aging process. Due to the early stages of research regarding the loss of taste buds, researchers do not know whether it’s possible to counter taste bud loss during aging, stimulate regrowth or even if taste buds are really gone when they no longer register any sensation. More research is required to explore the possible link between the taste bud loss and an increased risk of diabetes in seniors.
Diabetes and Oral Health
While the connection between diminished taste buds and diabetes remains unclear, researchers have a better understanding of the link between diabetes and gum disease. Studies have shown that individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes have a significantly higher risk of developing gum disease when compared to those without the disease. Considering that over 17 percent of seniors suffer from severe gum disease, according to the National Institutes of Health, the numbers suggest a strong correlation between both diseases.
Seniors face a growing number of oral health problems as they age. Continued dental care in the form of regular checkups and cleanings becomes paramount for seniors hoping to maintain the health of their teeth and gums.
Please contact your dentist in Eugene, OR to schedule an appointment,