Scratch-And-Sniff Test May Be Able To Predict Death Rate, Study Finds

Your nose could provide clues to your longevity, a new study suggests.

Published today in the Annals of Neurology, the study says your ability to identify smells may be linked to your risk of death in the near future. A sample of over 1,169 Medicare beneficiaries over age 65 were asked to smell 40 different scents on a scratch-and-sniff test and choose one of four multiple choice options identifying the odor.

In an average four-year follow-up, those who scored lower were up to 45 percent more likely to have died during the period than those who scored higher. A quarter point was deducted from scores for each incorrect identification. Meanwhile, only 18 percent of those who scored higher died during the follow-up.

"The increased risk of death increased progressively with worse performance in the smell identification test and was highest in those with the worst smelling ability, even after adjusting for medical burden and dementia," lead author Davangere Devanand, of Columbia University, said in a release.

Smell tests have also been administered in studies seeking to sniff out other risk factors as well. A small study conducted at the University of Florida found people with cognitive impairment performed worse on a peanut butter smell test, helping to confirm diagnoses. And similar to the new findings, a 2014 study at the University of Chicago also found that those who performed poorly on odor tests were more likely to die during a follow-up period.

But don't wrinkle your nose just yet. The study does have its limitations. "This was a study of older adults," Devanand said. "The question that remains is whether young to middle-aged adults with impaired smell identification ability are at high risk as they grow older."

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