The BBC has just compiled what it calls the Seven Ages of Appetite, which could serve as a guide for retailers and CPGs alike to help personalize food choices and overcome certain eating behaviors.
You know that as we age, we lose our sense of smell and along with that, our sense of taste. So a medium salsa in your 20s will probably lead to a spicy hot one when you are in your 70s.
Here's a breakdown:
The first decade, zero-10 years old: In early childhood, the body goes through rapid growth. Dietary behavior built up in early life can extend into adulthood, leading a fat child to become a fat adult. Fussiness or fear of particular foods can also contribute to mealtime struggles for parents of young children, but a strategy of repeated tasting and learning in a positive environment can help children learn about unfamiliar but important foods, such as vegetables.
The second decade, 10-20: In the teenage years, a growth in appetite and stature driven by hormones signals the arrival of puberty. How a teenager approaches food during this critical period will shape their lifestyle choices in later years.
The third decade, 20-30: As young adults, lifestyle changes such as going to college, getting married or living with a partner, and parenthood can promote weight gain. Once accumulated, body fat is often difficult to lose. The body sends strong appetite signals to eat when we consume less than our energy needs, but the signals to prevent overeating are weaker, which can lead to a circle of overconsumption.
The fourth decade, 30-40: Adult working life brings other challenges beyond a rumbling stomach, but also the effects of stress, which has been shown to prompt changes in appetite and eating habits in 80% of the population, equally divided between those that gorge and those that lose their appetite.
The fifth decade, 40-50: The word diet comes from the Greek word diaita, meaning “way of life, mode of living," but we are creatures of habit, often unwilling to change our preferences even when we know it is good for us. We want to eat what we want without changing our lifestyle, and still have a healthy body and mind.
The sixth decade, 50-60: After the age of 50, we begin to suffer a gradual loss of muscle mass, at between 0.5-1% per year. This is called sarcopenia, and lessened physical activity, consuming too little protein, and menopause in women will accelerate the decline in muscle mass.
The seventh decade, 60-70, and beyond: Adequate nutrition is important, as old age brings poor appetite and lack of hunger, which leads to unintentional weight loss and greater frailty. Reduced appetite can also result from illness, for example the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Topline, according to the study’s author Alex Johnstone, the personal chair in nutrition at The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen, is that we should strive to treat every opportunity to eat as an opportunity to enjoy our food and to enjoy the positive effects eating the right foods can have on our health.