Mealtime Partners, Inc.

Specializing in Assistive Dining and Drinking Equipment

January 2014 Independent Eating and Drinking Newsletter

Independent Eating...   is a Wonderful Thing

January Topics:

  • How the Sense of Smell Affects Taste

  • How Saliva Affects Taste

Mealtime Partners Home Page
Send a Comment or Suggestion

Subscribe to Newsletters

Taste - Introduction

This month’s Newsletter is a single topic that has two different very important elements. This is because two elements directly relate to how we taste: our sense of smell, and saliva, and the interplay between them that actually provide us with taste. When it comes to eating, the taste of food is very important. If you have reduced sensitivity to taste, stronger flavor is necessary to be aware of food having any flavor. Individuals do not appreciate subtle flavors if they have reduced sensitivity of their taste buds. One of the byproducts of loss of taste is loss of desire to eat. This puts individuals at a risk of undernutrition or even, over time, malnutrition.

In Mealtime Partners February 2011 Newsletter there was an article providing information about “Our Ability to Taste”. The article addressed the basics of how we taste. It did not, however, provide details about two areas that are an essential part of our ability to taste: our sense of smell; and, our saliva. This Newsletter will cover both of these topics and how they impact our sense of taste.

How the Sense of Smell Affects Taste

The sense of smell is what is known as a direct sense, meaning that something that smells must come in direct contract with a nose for a smell to be detected. Items that can be smelled emit chemicals in the form of a gas. Items that do not emit gas molecules have no odor and cannot be smelled. For example, a piece of metal does not emit an odor because it is non-volatile. Nothing evaporates once the metal is forged, but bread baking can be smelled as it has moisture containing chemicals that smell and evaporate during the baking process.

What we smell is an integral part of what we taste. Everyone has experienced having a cold and food not tasting like it typically does. That is because we do not smell the food because our nose is congested. The taste that is stimulated by food irritating the taste buds in our mouth is mixed with the smell sensed by our nose and the two produce what we sense as the flavor of the food.

Food emits molecules that float through the air that are called odorants. Odorants are inhaled through the nose and are detected by mucus membranes on the roof of the nose, a patch of neurons the size of a postage stamp. These specialized sensory cells, called olfactory sensory neurons, connect directly to the brain. The sensory neurons have cilia, hair like projections at the end of them, which expand the neurons surface area. When the cilia come in contact with odorants they stimulate proteins that trigger a neural response that provides us with the perception of smell. Different neurons are responsible for the identification of different smells. People are able to distinguish more than 10,000 different odorants; however, animals are able to distinguish many more.  

Some facts about our sense of smell are:


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


The Mealtime Partner             Pass the Peas Please

Peas aren't the easiest things to pick up, but the Mealtime Partner can reliably serve bite after bite of them if that’s what you want. If not, just move on to the next bowl and sample the pasta salad.

The Mealtime Partner empowers its user to eat
what they want, when they want it.

To see a video of the Mealtime Partner Dining System, click here. To discuss how it might meet your specific needs, call us at 800-996-8607 or email us by clicking here. (Be sure to include your telephone number if you want us to give you a call.)
The Mealtime Partner Dining System is quick and easy to learn and has no complicated programming requirements. Each Dining System comes with a complete training video on DVD so new users and caregivers can learn to use it in just a few minutes. To view a list of the instructional videos that may be selected by title, click here.

The Mealtime Partner is by far the best assistive dining equipment ever developed. Before the engineering design team ever started, the design requirements for it were developed by a team of medical experts working with potential users. They examined the shortcomings in prior designs, the needs and desires of users, and the special requirements for providing safe and reliable operation in the various, often harsh, environmental settings where it must function. This resulted in the design of a dining system with quiet operation, that is easy to setup and use, easy to clean, has high durability (will last many years), serves food reliably, and is very safe to use. There are no other devices currently on the market that can even come close to matching its performance. For more information about the Mealtime Partner, click here.

The Mealtime Partner meets the Medicare and Medicaid definitions of Durable Medical Equipment (DME). The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes the Mealtime Partner as a Class I type medical device. The Mealtime Partners has successfully completed all governmental electrical safety and electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC) compliance testing.


How Saliva Affects Taste 

Saliva is the liquid that is produced in our mouths. In humans, it is almost entirely water with a small amount of electrolytes, mucus, glycoproteins, enzymes, and antibacterial compounds in it. The enzymes in saliva are essential for the start of the digestive process for both starches and fat; they also help to break down food particles and protect the teeth from decay. Saliva also lubricates the mouth and, in turn, the food we eat. When food is chewed it is broken down into particles that are mixed with saliva that helps the food to be formed into a ball, or bolus, that can be swallowed. Saliva protects all of the surfaces in the oral cavity including the teeth. Inadequate production of saliva, or dry mouth, can be responsible for increased tooth decay. 

It is thought that we produce between 3/4 and 1-1/2 liters of saliva a day. However, we produce very little while we are sleeping. The submandibular gland creates about 3/4 of the saliva produced while the parotid gland and other minor glands produce the rest. 

We all produce saliva, some people produce too much and others too little; nevertheless, everyone has saliva in their mouth. The saliva is an essential part of our ability to taste food. Without it, we would not be aware of the taste of the food that we put in our mouths. To prove this hypothesis, a simple experiment can be conducted. It will take two people to perform this experiment. You will need lint-free paper towels, plain crackers and cookies, and chocolate graham crackers. First, break the food into small pieces about the size of a dime. Next, one person should thoroughly dry their tongue and keep their mouth open to keep the tongue dry. With their eyes closed they should have their partner place a piece of food on their tongue. Then ask the questions, what do you taste? Do you know what is on your tongue? Now close your mouth and allow saliva to form in your mouth with the food. Again, ask what do you taste and can you identify what specific food was placed on your tongue now that it is moist? This experiment will prove to you how saliva is an essential ingredient of taste. Additionally, it should be noted that if you have food in your mouth, as soon as you close your mouth, saliva is produced. In fact, even before you close your mouth saliva will begin to pool under your tongue. (Remember Pavlov’s drooling dogs.) Also, when you close your mouth, your tongue will begin to move to the roof of the mouth and move left and right and start breaking down the food even if you don’t chew the food in your mouth with your teeth. This allows the chemicals containing the flavor to escape from the food. 

Taste buds in the mouth have receptors that when they come in contact with chemicals that are disbursed from food, drinks, or other materials placed in the mouth, send messages to the brain about what the chemical tastes like: sweet, salty, bitter, etc. It is not fully understood how the receptors in the taste buds operate, but current research indicates that the receptors produce liquid that mixes with saliva (that has flavor chemicals in it) and transport a diluted amount of flavor to the receptor. Thus saliva is an essential part of taste. 

Even though the taste buds in our mouth are the primary resource for us to taste flavors in what we consume, they are supported by the production of saliva, without which they could not function. Additional information about flavor is gained from the smell of foods, as discussed earlier. Our bodies provide us an amazing amount of information about what we are eating from our nose and mouth, but what we see should not be overlooked. Prior to any food being smelled or tasted, information from our eyes can stimulate saliva production in anticipation of what the nose and mouth may experience. Without flavor being experienced food is dull and un-stimulating. People who have reduced awareness of taste and flavor can rapidly become tired and bored with eating and thus not eat enough. For more information about enhancing the flavor of food, please refer to the Mealtime Partners January 2010 Newsletter article: Food Flavor. 

Taste - Conclusion

For able bodied people, a change in their ability to taste will frequently cause them to make changes in what they eat and how they season it, whether due to problems with their olfactory system or their sense of taste. Modifying or enhancing the flavor of food with seasoning (salt, pepper, Tabasco, ketchup, barbeque sauce, etc.) can easily make food flavor stronger and more appealing to eat. However, people who are dependent upon someone else to prepare their food for them and feed them, may not be able to express how their sense of taste has changed. The result may be a gradual decrease in interest in food and a resulting gradual weight loss. Care providers should note these types of changes because they can be an indicator of health problems. Enhancing the flavor of the food they serve may bring about an increased interest in eating, and a return to some amount of previous normalcy. However, enhancing the flavor of the foods served should be done with some care. For example, if additional salt is used to enhance flavor, it can lead an increase in blood pressure or kidney problems (therefore, salt substitutes are sometimes recommended). Also, if the lack of interest in food, weight loss, etc., continues, a health professional should be consulted because there may be other underlying conditions causing this to occur.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Did You Know?  Did you know that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts per day can help you stay healthy? The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a report on a study conducted by Scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health. The study concluded that eating a handful of nuts each day provides protection from several causes of death. People who eat nuts regularly were 29% less likely to die from heart disease, 24% less likely to die from respiratory disease and 11% less likely to die from cancer. The study followed 76,464 women and 42,498 men for over 30 years. Other smaller studies have reached similar conclusions.

The study concluded that the type of nuts consumed was not significant (including peanuts which are legumes not nuts). Walnuts are regarded as the top for heart health as they contain the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids of all nuts. 42 peanuts, 30 -36 almonds, 24 – 27 cashews, 60 – 68 pistachios or 21 walnuts all equal around 1.5 ounces of nuts.

Mealtime Partners Website Navigation:

Home | Dining | Drinking | Videos | All Products | Warranty | Ordering | Calendar | FAQ | Newsletters | Contact

Please send comments and suggestions to

Copyright © Mealtime Partners, Inc. 2014

All rights reserved.