What does peanut butter have to do with Alzheimer’s?

Study finds that inability to smell peanut butter may be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease.

There are always new and interesting findings coming out of young minds in the medical industry. Recently, Jennifer Stamps, a graduate student at the University of Florida, found a link between detecting Alzheimer's disease and peanut butter – yes the tasty sandwich spread.1 The logistics are rather interesting.

Overview of the research
At the McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste, a group of professionals conducted a pilot study that used smell sensitivity to test for Alzheimer's. Knowing that early diagnosis of the disease can go a long way in preventing symptoms associated with the condition – disability and poor quality of life – Stamps and her colleagues were looking for indicators from the olfactory cortex, since Alzheimer's patients suffer from degeneration in the left hemisphere of the brain.

So, a group of participants with probable AD, mild cognitive impairment or another cause of dementia were tested using a olfactory test and compared to a control group.2 Using a 14-gram container of open peanut butter, researchers asked patients to detect what odor they were smelling when their eyes were closed using one nostril at a time. To start, the peanut butter was held 30 centimeters from the nose, and moved up in 1-centimeter increments until the scent was properly detected.

In those who suffered from Alzheimer's, detection was at an average of 5.1 centimeters for the left nostril and 17.4 centimeters on the right side. These findings indicate that a lack of odor detection from the left side of the brain may be an early sign of the disease. Furthermore, researchers point out that the test is noninvasive and inexpensive, making it an interesting avenue for moving forward with probable AD detection.

"At this moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis," Stamps said in a statement, according to LiveScience. "But we plan to study patients with mild cognitive impairment to see if this test might be used to predict which patients are going to get Alzheimer's disease."3

Overview of Alzheimer's
AD is an invasive brain disease that slowly destroys an individual's memory, often in old age. Eventually, patients have difficulty with their thinking skills and are unable to complete the simplest of daily tasks.4 Generally, symptoms don't appear until the age of 60, but at this point it has generally progressed past treatment. It is estimated that nearly 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's, and instances continue to become more common as the population ages.

Generally, once the condition is diagnosed, it has reached a stage of mild cognitive impairment, as in early instances there are no known symptoms to detect. The final stage is known as dementia, which is when a person has lost their abilities for cognitive function. Depending on the person, severity ranges. These are all caused by changes to the brain that are caused by the disease.

Doctors are unable to cure Alzheimer's because they do not completely understand what triggers the disease to start with.5 However, many believe that over a lengthy period of time, the brain undergoes a great deal of complex events that eventually lead to dementia. These could potentially be the cause of genetics, environmental or lifestyle factors or something completely different.

Medex Supply provides health care professionals and individuals with the necessary medical supplies for treating patients who have Alzheimer's.

1 Science Daily, "'Peanut butter' test can help diagnose Alzheimer's disease, researchers find" October 10, 2013
2 Journal of the Neurological Sciences, "A brief olfactory test for Alzheimer's disease" August 7, 2013
3 LiveScience, "Can peanut butter sniff out early signs of Alzheimer's?" October 9, 2013
4 National Institutes of Health, "About Alzheimer's disease: Alzheimer's basics"
5 National Institutes of Health, "Alzheimer's disease fact sheet"

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