All of my life, when I have heard people saying that they no longer enjoy a certain food, the phrase "my taste buds changed" is used. Is that really what causes changes in what people like? Is liking particular foods purely psychological, or is it actually defined by taste buds?

  • It's a result of touring the sausage factory. Jan 2, 2018 at 3:13
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    I can tell you from personal experience (which you should be able to replicate for yourself) that foods rich in nutrients that I'm short of taste much, much better. The appeal of protein versus carb versus fat in particular varies dependent on whether I've had enough of each recently.
    – Ben Barden
    Jan 2, 2018 at 15:47
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    Also, have a look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste_aversion: when you eat something and directly after become sick, you may develop an aversion against that food (whether it was cause of the sickness or not). See also e.g. dx.doi.org/10.1002/… Jan 9, 2018 at 21:58
  • The book 'How Pleasure Works' deals with this topic. Also look into the American Association of Wine Economists. They're not what you think. But they show garbage wine is as good as top end, and dog food is as good as the best patte. What you 'like' is a tremendously interesting topic and primarily directed by your brain and expectation. In fact, what you TASTE is directed by that as well. People aren't tricking themselves, it really DOES taste better, MRI scans prove it.
    – otakucode
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


The question is a bit vague and depending on interpretation either fairly trivial or very likely not answerable with current knowledge.

Is a change in taste buds a possible cause of change in taste? Sure, it's possible for a change in taste to be a result of actual changes in taste buds, as in their density... but many other things can lead to the same effect: saliva issues, loss of smell, neurological, drug-related, etc. Aging in particular causes it directly or indirectly.

On the other hand studies on diet changes found for instance that

Prescription of diets that promoted restriction of specific types of foods resulted in decreased cravings and preferences for the foods that were targeted for restriction.

But this doesn't say anything as to what the mediating pathways are in the body (including in the brain). If you want to ask what is the most common pathway mediating food preference change... it's a good question, but it doesn't look like researchers have an answer for this yet. Differences in brain activation as they correlate with food preferences across individuals have been studied, e.g. using fMRI, but longitudinal monitoring of changes in taste and their pathways would be a pretty expensive proposition (given the limited benefits of the resulting info).

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    So taste is an acquired taste. Interesting!
    – T. Sar
    Dec 6, 2017 at 16:03

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