Can’t Smell Peanut Butter? Alzheimer’s May Be the Culprit

Grab a jar of peanut butter. Can you smell it? If so, you may not have Alzheimer’s disease.Can't Smell Peanut Butter? Alzheimer's May Be the Culprit

Although it may sound bizarre, a new study reports that this method is a promising way to confirm a disease diagnosis. Learn more.

Linking Sense of Smell to Alzheimer’s

Researchers at The University of Florida asked over 90 participants to smell a spoonful of peanut butter at a short distance 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 Alzheimer’s.

Research on Sense of Smell Disputed

Some neurologists, like Dr. David Knopman from the Mayo Clinic, are skeptical that a simple process can diagnose such a complicated disease.

Also, with smell impairments being much greater in other forms of dementia, some neurologists believe that while it could diagnose cognitive impairment, the test unfortunately can’t differentiate between separate types of dementia.

At this point, the test can only be used to confirm an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and is not a way to diagnose the disease.

How Failing Sense of Smell Could Be a Warning Sign for Alzheimer’s

However, recent research is strengthening the connection between a failing sense of smell and an early warning of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found that seniors who had the worst test scores on a smell test were 2.2 times more likely to show signs of mild cognitive decline. Additionally, if participants were already exhibiting memory problems and obtained low smell test scores, they were more likely to progress to Alzheimer’s.

Researchers collected data on over 1,400 healthy seniors with an average age of 79 years old. Over the three and a half year study, 250 people developed mild memory programs and 64 people developed dementia. Seniors completed smell tests to include six food items and six non-food items. Through the study. researchers noted that as the sense of smell declined, the likelihood of memory problems and Alzheimer’s increased. Lead researcher, Rosebud Roberts is encouraged by the study stating:

“The findings suggest that doing a smell test may help identify elderly, mentally normal people who are likely to progress to develop memory problems or, if they have these problems, to progress to Alzheimer’s or dementia.”

The study was published in JAMA Neurology and researchers are cautious to note that their study does not indicate a cause and effect relationship. James Hendrix of the Alzheimer’s Association notes, “These findings may indicate that there could be a problem linked to neurodegenerative diseases in general,” but agrees that it’s too early to use a smell test as a diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Have you or a senior loved one confirmed an Alzheimer’s diagnosis using a smell test? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Virginia Cusick

    Until the Alzheimer’s medical community starts seriously dealing with the use of Versed/Midazolam on all patients and all surgeries this problem is going to continue to grow until most of our population has autism, alzheimer’s and dementia. This drug is a serious problem in all hospitals, dr offices and dental clinics, etc..

    I think it is a sin for all of the researchers to repeatedly ignore this problem no matter how many times they are sent PROOF that it attacks the hippocampus and causes long term memory loss. I suffered from complete aphasia in addition to amnesia off & on for 3 years now and I can’t pass an alzheimers test SINCE I got screwed over by the medical community with this drug.

    Many of us continue to fight for our right to be told they are going to administer an amnesiac drug and what the possible side effects are. There is so much research out there about this drug….many of us are gather together and we WILL eventually find an attorney who will take this on & it promises to be the largest class action lawsuit in history.

    • Melanie

      Hi Virginia, I’d like more information on Versed and Alzheimer’s. Could you please tell me where I can find more information?

      My grandmother passed away from Alz and her sister is currently fighting it.

      I have had many surgeries and I really worry about my memory. Of course I’m fearful of Alzheimer’s, given my family history.

      Thank You,

      • L G

        You can find the information you search on the internet. Just put the name in search and follow the links that interest you.

    • shafiq

      Naturopathic Doctors are an answer

    • Gypsy

      Thank you for posting this. I was not aware of this information.

    • Katie Carter

      Virginia, i am sorry to hear about your experience. My mother lost her memory after hip surgury at 81 yrs. for the next 8 years she steadily declined and was erronously given the diagnosis of ‘avascular dementia’ when it was clear that she had ‘post anesthesia dementia’. Even if we gave that in her history with new doctors, it was usually recorded as alzeimers or ‘avascular dementia’. NOT ONCE did anyone record the real reason for her decline. Even on her deafh certificate the physcian wrote (among other system failures ‘avascular dementia’ . So no record of her downfall from anesthsia will follow statistically. I agree that something has to be done. Britain is doing some outstanding research on this subject and certainly there is enough published research to inform the medical field. I would like to know about any citizens action group where i can be of assistance in getting the medical and general public awakened to this catastrophe

  • Gloria

    One particular sign that stands out in my mind is the lost of smell of coffee either brewing or from an open cofee container. She was an avid coffee drinker and she even wondered out aloud “why can’t I smell the coffee anymore”. This was years (maybe 4 years) before we became aware that something big was up.

    Be the way my mother had numerous surgeries (total of 7-9) requiring what I call complete anesthesia which I feel might have contributed to ALZ. There was a marked difference in memory impairment of the ones she had after 60 (at least 5).

    • Bill

      I feel your concern is correct and I recommend you read the following article ”
      Aging and Anesthesia
      by Sydney S. Farrier, LCSW
      Manager of Early Stage Programs
      Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Dallas”

      The following is from the report: ‘Inhaled anesthetics of halothane and isoflurane
      appeared to have the “most potent interaction with amyloid-beta peptides and
      aggregation.”[1] Injected anesthetic propofol showed this result only at high concentrations. ‘

      [1] University
      of Pittsburgh Medical Center
      “Role of Anesthetics in Alzheimer’s Disease: Molecular Details Revealed.”
      January 25, 2007

      Regards, Bill

  • Deblen

    I don’t recall my mom who had dementia ever saying anything about losing her sence of smell Her disease progressed really fast. However my sence if smell has been coming and going for years Very interesting.

    • Gypsy

      But some still have their sense of smell in the right nostril. It probably wasn’t noticeable or detected because of that.

  • Honeymol Baby

    I am excited to know that, the loss of smell can be an early symptom of alzheimer’s disease. When I was working in mental health hospital, I met a person with alzheimer’s disease. She used to say that she can not remember her relatives’ names. For me , it was a new information that correlation between sense of smell and alzheimer’s disease. Honeymol Baby

  • CelebriTea

    My parents sense of smell was failing–
    Progressively worse over a few years…
    My father had Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s
    My mom passed from cancer fairly quickly
    At 50, I have serious memory problems-
    I think my sense of smell is beginning to fade,
    but I can still smell peanut butter.

  • JoeInMidwest

    My mother, who died of Alzheimers at age 75, complained of loss of smell by her 40s. By the time she was 60, she had problems having conversations. Since I lived in another state, I thought that her decreased conversational ability was related to her decreased hearing ability. After her diagnosis at age 65 or so, I realized that she had been suffering from Alzheimers probably since her 50s, at least.
    I am now much more careful about medical interventions that involve drugs, as I have read so much about the adverse effects of Versed, other benzodiazepines, anesthetics and the like. Of course, that means I refuse any invasive procedures I don’t sense I don’t need that use such drugs, as I realize that my brain is what I need long term to truly enjoy life.

  • HelenL1

    My family has serious memory issues, my doctor ignores my loss of smell in the left nostril, I have absolutely no sense of smell at all. And they all ignore my insistence that my current memory state is not normal. Just because I can repeat stuff back to you on the spot if you say blue, 10 minutes later I can say blue and I have some education and can pass some stupid basic knowledge test does not mean I don’t have memory issues. If you tell me to remind you that you have a meeting in 10 minutes, don’t count on it. If you tell me that I need to be in a training class in 1/2 hour, don’t count on it. If you tell me that I need to replace someone at lunch time, don’t count on it. Pick up the kids at 3, nope. It annoys the hell out of me that no one is listening because I know it. I know my own body and they’re ignoring a serious mental deterioration based on some inaccurate, stupid memorization test.

    • Gypsy

      I would fire that doctor. So many physicians think they can sit back and collect the hundreds of office visit fees all month and then they just let your Health Concerns slip through the cracks and hope they don’t have to use their ill-equipped education to actually work and figure something out.

  • Gypsy

    Ok, so my sense of smell on the left nostril is just a little bit less than the right nostril. So now what??? What do I do about it? I don’t think any doctors will take this seriously. So those of us who have determined something is “off” are basically screwed?!?!?!

  • Cyprus

    Fifteen years ago I had an operation and since then I have had an on and off sense of smell . I am now 78 years old and active running with my husband a weekly session for dementia patients and their carers. This article has made me think.

  • Marie

    My MIL is always drawn to a jar of peanut butter for a snack and she has had MIC for atleat 6 yrs.

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