A University of Chicago research has identified specific scents as risk factors of dementia. The test, which can detect dementia up to six years prior to noticeable symptoms, involves "a scratch-and-sniff."
Previously, studies considered the loss of "overall sense of smell" to be an indication of dementia risk. However, the recent study has pinpointed particular scents as the risk factors.
Those who cannot smell the pungent scents of peppermint, fish, orange, rose, and leather -- are now considered more vulnerable to the risk.
Five years after the study had ended, almost all patients who reported an inability to smell these objects had dementia, reports Los Angeles Times
. 80% of these patients, who provided very few correct answers, were diagnosed with dementia.
Since Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia have no known cure, early detection of risk factors for the chronic illness is necessary to providing effective treatment and prevention.
The disease can go unnoticed for up to 20 years, worsening until the symptoms are noticeable. According to the study, using this earlier method of detection, chances of survival could be increased by making dietary and lifestyle changes to ward off the illness.
"Loss of the sense of smell is a strong signal that something has gone wrong and significant damage has been done," said Professor Jayant Pinto. He also added: "This simple smell test could provide a quick and inexpensive way to identify those who are already at high risk."
However, an inability to smell these objects does not necessarily diagnose dementia, but it is a risk factor. Dementia could be prevented with change in diet and exercise mitigating disease risk.