Smell tests give early warn­ing sign of de­men­tia

Daily Express - - NEWS - By Sarah West­cott

OLDER peo­ple who lose their sense of smell are more than twice as likely to de­velop de­men­tia, sci­en­tists re­vealed yes­ter­day.

Be­ing un­able to pick out com­mon odours is a red flag for the risk of suf­fer­ing the dev­as­tat­ing con­di­tion.

The break­through means de­men­tia could soon be pre­dicted ac­cu­rately with a sim­ple smell test five years be­fore symp­toms de­velop.

The new “early warn­ing sign” could mean ear­lier treat­ment and en­cour­age life­style changes such as a bet­ter diet and more ex­er­cise be­fore the con­di­tion takes hold.

There are 850,000 peo­ple liv­ing with the brain dis­ease in Bri­tain – a fig­ure set to soar to one mil­lion by 2025 and two mil­lion by 2050. It costs the econ­omy £26.3bil­lion a year.

The study of al­most 3,000 older peo­ple found that those who could not iden­tify at least four out of five com­mon smells were more than twice as likely to de­velop the dis­ease.

The vol­un­teers, aged 57 to 85, took part in tests five years ago to iden­tify five un­named smells.

In or­der of in­creas­ing dif­fi­culty they were pep­per­mint, fish, orange, rose and leather. Nearly eight out of 10 peo­ple tested were normal, iden­ti­fy­ing at least four scents. Four­teen per cent could name only three, five per cent two, two per cent one and one per cent none.

Five years on nearly all who could not name a sin­gle scent had de­men­tia. Nearly 80 per cent who gave one or two cor­rect answers also had it.

Re­port au­thor Pro­fes­sor Jayant Pinto, of the Univer­sity of Chicago, said: “These re­sults show that smell is closely con­nected with brain function and health. We think smell abil­ity may be an important early sign, mark­ing peo­ple at greater risk. More work would need to be done but it could help find peo­ple at risk.”

Dr James Pick­ett, of the Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety, said: “This adds to grow­ing ev­i­dence that sug­gests sense of smell could be im­pacted in the early stages of de­men­tia.” He said smell tests were less in­va­sive than other pro­ce­dures such as ex­am­in­ing spinal fluid.

Rosa San­cho, of Alzheimer’s Re­search UK, said: “Smell tests would need to be used along­side more spe­cific di­ag­nos­tic tests to aid early de­tec­tion of de­men­tia.” The study is pub­lished in the jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Ge­ri­atrics So­ci­ety.

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