Alzheimer's: Scratch and Sniff?

By: Jummy Olabanji Email
By: Jummy Olabanji Email

July 13, 2007

More than five-thousand people in Charlottesville and the surrounding areas are living with Alzheimer’s and they aren't alone; over five-million Americans live with the disease.

But medical researchers say there now may be a way to help detect the incurable disease.

New medical research finds that difficulty identifying common smells may be the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We do know that a person's sense of smell is affected during the course of the disease,” said Ellen Phipps, Vice President of the Alzheimer’s Association of Central and Western Virginia.

In the study, six-hundred people between the ages of 54 and 100 were asked to identify a dozen common smells.

Some of those were things like lemon, black pepper, banana, soap gas and smoke.

The results show that a quarter of people identified all of the scents or only missed one; about 50% knew 9 of the 12; and the last quarter could only identify 8 or less smells.

The research continued for five years, and in the end, around 33% of participants developed trouble with memory and thinking.

Phipps said, “So the idea of this test is very attractive, because the area of the brain that deals with smell is affected throughout the course of the disease.”

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