Take the 2-minute tour ×
Skeptics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientific skepticism. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Twice in the last week I've heard and re-stated the 'fact' that your taste buds change every seven years.

Example of claim: All Expert's Science for Kids

Taste Buds change every 5 to 7 years and during these tansitional (sic) periods (lasting up to 6 months) we find that we begin to like the flavor of some things but not others and vis-a-versa (sic). When your new taste buds erupt, is when you should be trying all kinds of new foods and flavors. You may find that things you did not like before you will now and even foods like carrots you used to like and don't now, can be changed.

I've found, however, no scientific basis for this, which is annoying. I can't find any either.

I've heard the 'your entire body's cells change every 7 years' but have read that to be bunk - your neurons in your brain are largely the same you start with, apparently.

So does anyone have any hard facts for or against the changing tastes every seven years theory?

share|improve this question
    
I am having trouble understanding what the claim could mean. Obviously, we don't wake up and suddenly through away all our music, clothes and food every 7 years. I still don't like Brussell's Sprouts, and that has been much longer than 7 years, even if my opinion of broccoli has changed. What was the point they were trying to make when they said it? –  Oddthinking Sep 10 '12 at 4:20
    
That they used to like something, but now like it, so they excused it by saying 'oh everyone's tastes change every seven years'. It's a weird one, but a google for it shows plenty of websites claiming it as well (although without backing or reasoning). –  Mark Mayo Sep 10 '12 at 5:54
    
Found some examples - they were specific to taste buds, rather than taste in (e.g.) music, so I edited the question. –  Oddthinking Sep 10 '12 at 6:39
    
Wow! I always thought my uncle was the only in the world to claim this. He told me 20 years ago and I never forgot (because I was 7). –  gerrit Dec 20 '12 at 0:59
    
What do you even mean with taste buds? Sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami? Why should a regrow of those taste buds change whether you like carrots? –  Christian Feb 16 '13 at 18:32

2 Answers 2

Starting towards an answer...

The cells in the taste buds actually renew far more often RENEWAL OF CELLS WITHIN TASTE BUDS:

The life span of the average cell is about 250 ± 50 hours

So cells in the taste buds change much faster than the claimed change in taste.

However, there are known examples of tastes that change over the lifespan, e.g. the perception of sweetness (Sweetness intensity and pleasantness in children, adolescents, and adults.).

But "complete change every 7 years" is too simplistic.

Moreover, not every taste perception changes for everyone (Age modifies the genotype-phenotype relationship for the bitter receptor TAS2R38) They looked at variations of a particular bitter reception, and found

the change in PROP bitter sensitivity which occurs over the lifespan (from bitter sensitive to less so) is more common in people with a particular haplotype combination, i.e., AVI/PAV heterozygotes.

Note that these people do not change their genes with age, but the perception of the bitter substance is markedly different. (AFAIK it is in general not clear whether the change comes from the signal from the taste buds or from the perceived quality, i.e. the processing of the signal in the brain - but I don't have literature on that.)
The AVI/AVI had a low bitter sensitivity throughout the studied age (3 groups around 7, 15 and 34 years), and the PAV/PAV maintained high sensitivity.

This paper has whole sections on how taste likes and dislikes develop. Particularly dislikes can develop very fast, and also erraneously (e.g. childen can learn to dislike a food if they fall ill soon after eating it - also if the illness was completely unrelated to the food). They also cite this other paper saying that

Some research suggests that children need to taste a new food at least ten times before they change their preference (Wardle et al, 2003a), especially if its initial palatability is low. Mothers typically cease to offer foods that have been rejected on three or more occasions (Carruth et al, 2004) and as a result the necessary level of exposure required to create acceptance might not be reached.

So if those 10 exposures take 6 months, there you are...

About carrots: Here's a PhD thesis about bitter taste in carrots (in German). This leaflet about the project said that rather freuently intense bitter taste in carrot-based baby food leads to reclamations, and the project identified some substances but concludes that still not all precursors are known, so it is still difficult to measure the potential of the carrots for developing bitter taste.

share|improve this answer

As we age, foods taste less intense which is why children love bland foods then as we age we can tolerate more spices...and often require them to enjoy foods. The elderly season their foods greatly to even be able to taste it. We can eat foods we loved as children and be completely convinced the food itself has changed when it's our taste buds that have changed. Like hearing loss or having reduced vision with age, our taste buds are supposedly the sense that goes first.

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

4  
Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims. –  Oddthinking Sep 2 '13 at 11:14

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.