Dementia and Alzheimer’s are one of the most vexing problems for science, but a major discovery could help us spot it early and thus result in better treatment of the brain degenerative disorder. A new study claims that the inability to smell could be an early sign of the brain’s deterioration, a simple marker that would be easy to test if scientists are able to confirm in follow-up research.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and is based on a smell test administered to 3,000 participants who do not have any brain problems. They were both men and women between the ages of 57 and 85, and they were tested again five years later.
The participants were given “Sniffin Sticks” with scents like peppermint or oranges and asked to identify them. About 18.7 percent were only able to identify two or three of the five scents. Scientists found that nearly all of the people in this group developed dementia five years after the fact.
“A long-term study of nearly 3,000 adults, aged 57 to 85, found that those who could not identify at least four out of five common odors were more than twice as likely as those with a normal sense of smell to develop dementia within five years,” reads a statement from the University of Chicago Medical Center. “Although 78 percent of those tested were normal – correctly identifying at least four out of five scents – about 14 percent could name just three out of five, five percent could identify only two scents, two percent could name just one, and one percent of the study subjects were not able to identify a single smell.”