Sniffing Out Dementia With A Simple Smell Test

Dementia symptoms

The researchers followed the participants for at least five years and found out that nearly all of the people who could not be able to detect a single one of those five scents had developed dementia.

A paper describing the study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. There was also a dose-dependent relationship between the degree of smell loss and the incidence of dementia.

But 14 per cent could name just three out of five, 5 per cent could identify only two, and 2 per cent could recognise only one.

Lead scientist Professor Jayant Pinto, from the University of Chicago, said: "These results show that the sense of smell is closely connected with brain function and health".

Dr. Mony de Leon, director of the Center for Brain Health at NYU Langone Health, called the new research "interesting", but in order to receive a more accurate correlation between dementia and loss of smell, a much larger sample size is required.

They found that those who could not identify at least four out of five common odours - peppermint, fish, orange, rose and leather - were more than twice as likely to develop dementia within five years.

The authors acknowledge that more work will be needed before an olfactory test could be developed for clinical use.

"Our test simply marks someone for closer attention".

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A team of researchers from the University of Chicago say their new research may help solve this problem by providing a simple and affordable test that detects dementia risk. "This study links difficulties in recognising smells with a greater dementia risk five years later, adding to existing evidence that smell could act as an early warning sign for the condition", she said.

Those with a "normal" sense of smell could identify at least four out of five common odours. Study subjects smell each item and are asked to identify that odour, one at a time, from a set of four choices. Of the total study population another 18.7% of subjects were classified as "hyposmic", and could only name two or three of the five scents.

This means it is potentially exposing the central nervous system to environmental hazards such as pollution or pathogens.

And Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, stressed there were other reasons why people could lose their sense of smell.

He added that losing the sense of smell can impact a person's lifestyle and could also risk a their safety.

"People who can't smell face everyday problems such as knowing whether food is spoiled, detecting smoke during a fire, or assessing the need a shower after a workout".

"Being unable to smell is closely associated with depression as people don't get as much pleasure in life", Professor Pinto said. These two factors could help doctors diagnose dementia in its early stages.

Added Prof McClintock: "A decrease in the ability to smell may signal a decrease in the brain's ability to rebuild key components that are declining with age, leading to the pathological changes of many different dementias".

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