Go grab a jar of peanut butter. Can you smell it? If so, lucky you, you may not have Alzheimer’s disease.
Jennifer Stamps, a graduate student in the McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste and the University of Florida, came up with the idea of using peanut butter to test for smell sensitivity when she was working with Kenneth Heilman, a professor of neurology at the University of Florida.
Dr. Heilman said, ‘If you can come up with something quick and inexpensive, we can do it,’” Stamps says.
Researchers at The University of Florida asked over 90 participants to sat down with a clinician and smell 14 grams of peanut butter—which equals about one tablespoon—at a short distance (a metric ruler) from their nose.
Some participants had a confirmed early stage Alzheimer’s diagnosis, some had other forms of dementia, while others had no cognitive or neurological problems. Of those participants, only those with a confirmed diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s had trouble smelling the peanut butter. Additionally, those patients also had a harder time smelling the peanut butter with their left nostril. Generally, the right nostril was able to smell the peanut butter 10 centimeters farther away than the left nostril. The difference in smell between left and right nostril in unique to the disease. Sense of smell is often the first sense to go in cognitive decline, even before memory loss, which is why this could be an effective tool in the fight against against Alzheimer’s.
However, the research on sense of smell made a dispute with some neurologists, like David Knopman from the Mayo Clinic. They are skeptical that a simple process can diagnose such a complicated disease. Also, with smell impairments being much greater in other forms of dementia, Knopman believes that while it could diagnose cognitive impairment, the test can’t differentiate between separate types of dementia.
What it means is that, at this point, the test can only be used to confirm an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and is not a way to diagnose the disease. However, researchers hope that more studies will lead to a way to predict who will actually get Alzheimer’s in the future.
via Alzheimer’s and Futurity