Sense of Smell May Predict LongevityOctober 9, 2014
A defective sense of smell appears to be a good predictor of longevity, a new study has found.
Researchers tested a nationally representative sample of 3,005 men and women aged 57 to 85 on their ability to identify five smells: rose, leather, orange, fish and peppermint. The study appears online in PLOS One.
They controlled for many factors — age, sex, socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol intake, education, body mass index, race, hypertension, diabetes, heart attack, emphysema, stroke and diet. But still, people who could not detect the odors were more than three times as likely to die within five years as those who could. The lower their scores on the odor test, the more likely they were to die. Only severe liver damage was a better predictor of death.
The researchers believe that the decline in the ability to smell is an indicator of some other age-related degeneration, and is not itself a cause of death.
The lead author, Dr. Jayant M. Pinto, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago, said that loss of smell should not be ignored. “There are treatable causes of olfactory loss,” he said, “so if people have problems, they should get evaluated. This is a gross indication of your health, so if you’re having some trouble, you should see a doctor.”