A new study has confirmed that losing your sense of smell, not your memory, may be the very first sign of developing Alzheimer’s.

While researchers have long known that the sense of smell declines with age, it hasn’t yet been completely conclusive that it could be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s until now.

Research carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of North Carolina, Harvard School of Public Health, and Osmic Enterprises and published in the journal Annals of Neurology has concluded that a sharp decrease in sense of smell, and an inability to remember smells, are likely one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s.

Patients may begin to notice a decline or loss in their sense of smell up to 10 years before they notice any memory loss, the study reports.

The study measured 183 patients who were at risk for Alzheimer’s. The participants were then asked to identify the following 10 scents: menthol, clove, leather, strawberry, lilac, pineapple, smoke, soap, grape or lemon.

Each participant was given a choice of four scents, with one being the correct answer, and they had to identify what they had just smelled.

They then filled out a survey about the scents they had just inhaled to determine how well they not only could identify smells, but also remember them.

Lastly, they were given two scents and were asked to determine if they were the same or different.

The testing also included a brain scan where doctors could identify which participants already were in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s. It was concluded that those who had the most trouble with the scents were most likely to be in the beginning stages of memory failure.

More testing, however, is needed to see if these theories are actually able to diagnose Alzheimer’s. A sense of smell can be altered greatly from person to person depending on a wide variety of factors, so it may not be the most reliable of tests.

Dr. Mark Albers, who lead the study, stated:

“If these results hold up, this sort of inexpensive, noninvasive screening could help us identify the best candidates for novel therapies to prevent the development of symptoms of this tragic disease.”

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