Research suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may be linked to a diminished sense of smell and that a simple, inexpensive smell test may help doctors to know who should receive extra screening for dementia

One study conducted at the University of Florida asked 90 people to smell a spoonful of peanut butter that was placed a short distance from their noses. Some of the participants had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, others had dementia, and others had no cognitive impairments.

Participants who had Alzheimer’s disease were the only group that had difficulty smelling the peanut butter. Specifically, those participants had the most trouble smelling the peanut butter from their left nostril.

One reason why the peanut butter test may help to diagnose people with early stages of Alzheimer’s is that smell is associated with the first cranial nerve, which is one of the first things that begins to deteriorate as cognitive abilities decline.

Some researchers are skeptical about such a simple test. They suggest that the smell test may indicate cognitive impairment, but not necessarily Alzheimer’s disease.

Additional research is underway and sometime in the future scientists hope that these early tests will lead to a way to predict or at least catch Alzheimer’s at a very early stage.

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