NUS study aims to get elderly eating better, with smell

With Singapore's fast ageing population, scientists here are not turning their nose at food aromas, known to stimulate appetites among seniors who often lose smell sensitivity as they age.

The National University of Singapore is embarking on the first local study into how our perception of various food smells changes as we get older. The study will involve 300 participants aged between 21 and 80 and it will test their sensitivity to ten specific odours from the citrus, spicy, minty, rancid, floral, earthy, smoky, nutty and savoury groups.

NUS has received funding of $25,000 from local flavour manufacturer KH Roberts, which intends to use its findings to develop flavours particularly enticing to the elderly.

The research has implications beyond simply making food more tasty for them. A 2011 study by Tan Tock Seng Hospital found that one in three elderly people were at high risk of malnutrition. Many did not have a balanced diet, in part because they enjoyed their food less. This often leads to conditions such as reduced muscle mass and strength, and anaemia.