A strong sense of smell is, apparently, the sign of a healthy body. I suppose you could make that argument of all the senses, as animals—including humans—need these traits to survive. But a new test says that if you lose your sense of smell—or, rather, your ability to identify certain smells—you might have Parkinson’s disease.
Yes, a new study published in the journal Neurology describes how a simple scratch-and-sniff test could actually be an effective tool for early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Michigan State University researcher Honglei Chen comments that this test could help to identify certain people at risk for developing the disease within the next 10 years. The lead author shares that previous research has already shown an association between our sense of smell and with four or five years of disease progression. “Unlike vision or hearing impairment, a poor sense of smell often goes unrecognized,” Chen explains. “Evidence suggests olfactory [sense of smell] impairment may develop years prior to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and dementia, the so-called neurodegenerative diseases that we are yet to find a cure for.”
In addition, the professor of epidemiology comments, “One of the key differences in our study was we followed older white and black participants for an average of about 10 years, much longer than any other previous study. We found that there was a strong link between smell and disease risk for up to six years. After that, the link remained, but just wasn’t as strong.”
With federal funding, this American Academy of Neurology study is one of the first to include African-Americans. And with that knowledge, Chen also remarks that they suspect the risk is not as strong among black people as it is among white people.
Chen shares: “Previous studies have shown that black people are more likely to have a poor sense of smell than whites and yet may be less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.”
Indeed, he contends, “We found no statistical significance for a link between poor sense of smell and Parkinson’s disease in blacks, but that may have been due to the small sample size and more research is needed.”
But they did find that older men who have a poor sense of smell are, in fact, more likely to develop this disease [when compared against older women with a poor sense of smell.