Inability to smell peanut butter may be sign of Alzheimer's - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Study: Inability to smell peanut butter may be early sign of Alzheimer’s

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCIV) – Being able to smell peanut butter may be a simple and cost-effective way to test for Alzheimer's.

Researchers at the University of Florida found that being able to smell peanut butter was effective in confirming the diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer's disease. Graduate student Jennifer Stamps and her colleagues published the findings of the small study in the Journal of Neurological Sciences.

Stamps said the idea came when she was shadowing Dr. Kenneth Heilman and noticed the patients were not being tested of their sense of smell. The sense of smell, reports the University of Florida, has been associated with cognitive decline.

"Dr. Heilman said, ‘If you can come up with something quick and inexpensive, we can do it,'" Stamps said.

Stamps settled on peanut butter.

The test was simple. Patients closed off one nostril and a clinician would move a canister of peanut butter along a ruler one centimeter at a time until the patient could smell it.

Stamps found that patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's had notable differences in smelling the peanut butter between their nostrils. On average, the left nostril would not detect the smell of the peanut butter until it was 10 centimeters closer than when smell was detected in the right nostril.

Of the 24 tests done, 10 showed a left nostril impairment and 14 did not.

Researchers said they had to conduct more extensive studies to understand what the pilot study had revealed.

"At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis," Stamps said. "But we plan to study patients with mild cognitive impairment to see if this test might be used to predict which patients are going to get Alzheimer's disease."

The research group said the peanut butter test could be used in clinics that lack access to expensive testing equipment, but would not serve as a replacement for techniques that could better target problems and treatments.

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