The results of a new study point towards the fact that the loss of smell could be an early sign of Alzheimer. The tests proved that older people who had a less effective sense of smell had links to memory loss. The report appeared online in JAMA Neurology last Monday.
The researchers conducted a smell test on over 1,4000 people at around 79 years old. The people were all mentally healthy. The study tested six food smells and six non-food smells. These included cinnamon, banana, onion, pineapple, chocolate, lemon, rose, turpentine, paint thinner, gasoline, smoke and soap.
Three years and a half later, 250 people that were part of the test started showing memory problems, more specifically mild cognitive impairment. 221 people developed more serious problems, out of which 64 were affected by dementia.
As Rosebud Roberts, lead researcher and neurology professor at Mayo Clinic stated, the people who scored badly in the test were much more likely to develop mild memory problems. In the case that they were already affected by mental problems, these had a high possibility of progressing into the Alzheimer disease. However, there are also people who have chronic conditions of respiratory tract, and the test cannot apply to them.
The conclusion was that Alzheimer affects the part of brain associated with distinguishing odors. Roberts also added that this method should be used in clinics in order to early identify people who are prone to memory problems or even the dreadful dementia.
In spite of these facts, no other link could be found between the abilities of the sense of smell and other mild cognitive impairment problems.
Global science initiatives director of the Alzheimer’s Association, James Hendrix, declared that the results of the study also point towards the fact the problems could be neurodegenerative diseases. However, generally speaking, smell tests could be used in the future to identify any small abnormalities with people’s brains. In the case the test would have bad scores, then the patient would continue with further more detailed tests in order to determine the nature of the condition, whether it is Alzheimer or Parkinson.
Loss of smell could be an early sign of Alzheimer, but before implementing such a tool in clinics and medical institutions, further research and studies are required.
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