Graphic shows details of scratch-and-sniff ordour test by researchers at Michigan State University.


Bad sense of smell predicts early death

By Duncan Mil

April 30, 2019 - A simple scratch-and-sniff test can detect a poor sense of smell in older adults and predict the likelihood of dying within the next 10 years, but the reasons for this are not entirely clear.

To investigate, Honglei Chen, an epidemiologist at Michigan State University, who’s focused his research on this sensory deficit in older adults analysed data from more than 2000 people aged 71 to 82.

A new study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests that older adults with a poor sense of smell may see an almost 50% increase in their risk of dying within ten years.

“Poor sense of smell becomes more common as people age, and there's a link to a higher risk for death,” said Chen. “Our study is the first to look at the potential reasons why it predicts higher mortality.”

Using data from the National Institute on Aging’s Health ABC study, Chen and his research team reviewed information from 2,289 participants between 71 and 82 years old over 13 years. Participants included men and women, black and white, who completed a smell test of 12 common odours. Researchers then classified participants as having a good, moderate or reduced sense of smell.

Compared with older adults with a good sense of smell, those with bad smell were at a 46% higher risk for death at ten years and 30% at 13 years.

PUBLISHED: 30/04/2019; STORY: Graphic News
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