Researchers at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste have discovered that a simple test requiring only peanut butter and a ruler could help diagnose early signs of Alzheimer’s.
A study published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences explained that an impeded sense of smell can be an early indicator of cognitive decline.The idea behind this new test is to measure how far away a tablespoon of peanut butter has to be before the patient can detect it’s scent. Patients are told to close their eyes and breath normally while the doctor moves a tablespoon of peanut butter up a ruler, centimetre by centimetre, towards one nostril.
The study showed that patients with Alzheimer’s needed the PB to be much closer to them when using their left nostril as opposed to their right, a unique pattern that may be able to help doctors studying the disease.
“At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis. 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,” Jennifer Stamps, a graduate student who worked on the study, told the university’s newspaper The Post.
Peanut butter was chosen because it’s a “pure odorant,” meaning it’s only detected by the olfactory nerve. It’s also cheap, which makes it an ideal tool for hospitals and clinics that don’t have access to the resources or specialists who usually diagnose the disease. The simplicity and inexpensiveness of the test are ideal for regular screening.
“If we can catch it at that early stage, we can start treatment more aggressively at the early stage,” Stamps said. “And you can possibly prevent a lot of the progression.”