Should you be concerned if you can no longer smell the roses?
Researchers at the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System in Honolulu say it's possible. Dr. G. Webster Ross and his staff studied the correlation between the loss of smell and the incidence of Parkinson's. The results are quite telling.
The team assessed almost 2,300 men for the study. The participants were, on average, 80 at the onset of the study and they were followed for 8 years. All were unaffected by Parkinson's or other dementias at the beginning of the study.
Those men with the poorest sense of smell were 5.2 times more likely to develop Parkinson's than those with a good sense of smell. That's a big difference.
A 12-item Brief Smell Identification Test (SID) is typically used to assess the olfactory abilities of study participants. The SID assesses the ability to identify twelve familiar aromas, including banana, chocolate, cinnamon, gasoline, lemon and onion.
Previous research by Rush University Medical Center has indicated a link between Alzheimer's and the loss of smell. It certainly appears to be a significant pattern.
The researchers believe these smell tests may become valuable tools in the early assessment of Parkinson's and other dementias. This will be especially important as early medical interventions become available.
On a more positive note, earlier research by Dr. Ross indicates that drinking coffee may offer some protection against Parkinson's. He reported, in 2000, a direct inverse correlation between coffee consumption and development of Parkinson's: those consuming the most coffee were the least likely to develop Parkinson's. To read the results of that study, see this press release.
In the meantime, don't panic. Live a healthy lifestyle, enjoy your family and friends, and go to the drugstore. The only thing wrong with your sense of smell may be quickly resolved with a shot of nasal spray.To read more about the current study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about Parkinson's, and to find resources, see this from the National Parkinson Foundation.