I heard someone say "My sinuses are acting up, I can't taste the food." I don't think the person is lying, they probably believe this but I'm having trouble seeing how the sinuses would affect the taste buds. I realize smell helps identify foods, but it seems like not smelling a food wouldn't affect taste so severely as people make it sound.

I don't have sinus troubles much and haven't experienced this, so I'm not claiming it's fake, I'm just curious to understand how that works.

  • $\begingroup$ Scent and taste are intimately connected. Try tasting something flavorful, rinsing your mouth out with water, then holding your nose and tasting it again - it will be much "duller". Taste buds and scent receptors signal to the same part of the brain. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Jun 16, 2016 at 22:28

1 Answer 1


The first thing which is important to note is the difference between taste and flavor. Taste refers to the chemical sense performed by taste buds present on the tongue, and to date there have been identified 5 tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami. Thus I understand obstructed nose and sinuses should have no significant effect on taste. Flavor, on the other hand, is the final sensation that conveys the information about the food we're eating, and involves not only taste, but also smell, mechanical sensation (like that smooth flavor from cream) and pain and temperature pathways (hot and spicy food, like peppers). Part of the signals from all these receptors located on the mouth (and nasal) cavity ultimately converge to the same location in the brain, where they are processed to create the final flavor (I know taste and smell do converge to the same region, cannot tell the others with full certainty). So, having obstructed sinuses and nasal cavity can interfere with the smell detection (by not allowing molecules to bind to receptors on the olfactory epithelium), and thus interfere with flavor.

You can check this site which I think explains very well what I am trying to pass on, it is very clear and covers all the physiology that I talked about, allowing you to go deeper into details if you are interested: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/biosi/staffinfo/jacob/teaching/sensory/taste.html and also http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/biosi/staffinfo/jacob/teaching/sensory/olfact1.html (you have to scroll down to the main text)

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    $\begingroup$ @FilipeRocha - everyone can claim to be an expert and start babbling away. Although I don't doubt your expertise in this area I'm downvoting your answer as you're blandly ignoring the advice of hi-rep users. Please understand - reputation on this site is a reflection of nothing more than user effort; even laymen can gain a lot of rep here simply by quoting wikipedia. The reason we ask for sources is that it allows users to background read on the topic and get in-depth understanding of your answer. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Mar 13, 2017 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Filipe and all that experience makes finding proper sources easier because you already know some sources, you know the proper keywords to find new ones and you can better recognize their validity. Anecdotal information is interesting for sure, but on this site we require that you back up your answers with sources b/c other users don't have the experience to know what is valid or not. If you want to share anecdotal info/answeres on Bio.SE, it is best shared (and welcomed) in the comments. $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2017 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist thank you for the explanation, it does make sense and if it was me I would also like others to show me where can I find something that I can use to verify or further learn about the topic. So I went looking for such and found this site which I think explains very well what I was trying to pass on, it is very clear and covers all that I talked about: cardiff.ac.uk/biosi/staffinfo/jacob/teaching/sensory/taste.html I hope you find it useful (you have to scroll down to the main text), and once again thank you $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2017 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Filipe Great! Just one last thing: we ask that answers be complete (i.e., not needing comments to "fill-in" further information). Please incorporate your link into your answer. Further, providing context for the link is super useful because some links break over time; as a result, it's useful to provide a bit more than just the link (.e.g, what does the link contain, what part of your answer is it pertinent to, etc.). Copying (and citing) a photo (which that site has numerous) would be a great addition to your answer as well :). Thanks for putting in the effort to improve! $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2017 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist done :) $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2017 at 16:20

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