The taste buds (sensory organs found on the tongue) are an important “pleasure” part of the body. That is to say – when eating: a certain amount of pleasure is received due to the taste of the food. However, when the taste buds are not working properly – that pleasure is not received; resulting in food consumption being rather tasteless. There are various reasons which may cause the taste buds not to work properly. Although, it is important first to understand as to what the taste buds actually do.
The Five Senses – The taste buds have a limited range of five things that they can sense, for example: bitter or salty, sweet and sour, and umami ([savory, meaty, or brothy] the taste of the food additive MSG [mono-sodium glutamate that can be found in most Chinese foods, snacks, and seasonings, etc.]). However, some foods offer a little more than just a taste to the mouth. Strawberries are an example of just one such food (sweet to the taste) which offers a little extra.
Olfactory Neurons – In the uppermost part of the nose, there are a large number of olfactory neurons (odor sensing nerve cells that send messages to the brain) which have different chemical receptors. Their role is to detect dissolved odors (volatile molecules) that float about in the air (given-off by certain foods). Strawberries, for example: give off a strong chemical odor that when eaten are not just sweet to the taste buds, but also their sweetness (in volatile molecule form) can be detected by the nose.
Nasal Impediments – When someone gets a cold (or another nasal impediment), these floating volatile molecules are not detected by the nose so easily, resulting in a diminished taste capacity even though their sweetness (in the case of strawberries) is still there – tasteless strawberries. Also, specific anosmias (a condition [permanent or temporary] that causes the inability to smell certain odors) may also result in food being tasteless due to the noses inability to detect odors.
Other Reasons – Age can also affect the ability to be able to taste properly (young people have around 10,000 taste buds that get replaced every two weeks or so; however, as people age, around 5,000 of them tend to get lost due to not being replaced as often). Smoking, can also act in the same way as age, where many taste buds are lost due to them not being replaced. This also results in smokers not realizing how tasteless their food has become.