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Possible cause: Zinc deficiency

A slight decline in the sense of taste (known as hypogeusia) is common in people over 60 and can be associated with a variety of conditions, but one of the most prevalent is a zinc deficiency, says Bette Bischoff, MD, RD, a functional-medicine doctor in Tulsa, Okla.

A decreased sense of taste might not seem like a big deal, but many experts say it can lead to diminished appetite, poor nutrition — some people might pile on the sugar and salt to make their food taste better — and even depression. (For more on zinc deficiency, see “What Zinc Deficiency Looks Like”.)

While some practitioners use a zinc taste test to diagnose deficiency (if you can’t taste the bitterness in a zinc-water solution, you are deficient), Fry notes this is not as accurate as a blood test. Initially, she prefers to look directly at the body for signs of insufficient zinc: Peeling fingernails, white spots on fingernails, and hair loss are all symptomatic of inadequate zinc intake or absorption.

What you can do: Eat zinc-rich foods like oysters, grassfed beef, nuts, and lentils (add lemon or lime to increase absorption), and take a high-quality zinc supplement — ideally no more than 40 mg a day of a complex that contains zinc gluconate, zinc amino acid chelate, and zinc citrate.

It’s also a good idea to consult a functional-medicine nutritionist because your zinc levels must be in balance with your copper levels, says Bischoff.

“Zinc and copper actually compete with each other for absorption,” she says. “So, you might have someone who has decreased zinc levels because they have such high copper levels.”

This was excerpted from “What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You, Part 2” which was published in the April 2016 issue of Experience Life.

Anjula Razdan

Anjula Razdan is Experience Life‘s digital director.

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