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I grabbed our jar of peanut butter from the fridge and stared at it nervously for a few moments. I can be a bit of a hypochondriac you see. Finally, with some trepidation but steely determination, I opened my peanut butter jar and took two long sniffs, one for each nostril.

No, this was not to bring me dreamily back to my elementary bag lunch days (they weren't so idyllic anyway). Rather, it was because Alzheimer's ravaged a few of my grandparents. Make sense?

Follow me over and you'll read it does make sense (scents?).

The University of Florida has just completed a small pilot study that showed a simple sniff test seems able to confirm a diagnosis of of the early onset of Alzheimer's. Futurity.org explained yesterday:

Patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease had a dramatic difference in detecting odor between the left and right nostril—the left nostril was impaired and did not detect the smell until it was an average of 10 centimeters closer to the nose than the right nostril had made the detection in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
So you can see why, at 49 years of age, I might have been a tad spooked before taking a sniff.
Jennifer Stamps, a graduate student in the McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste and the University of Florida, came up with the idea of using peanut butter to test for smell sensitivity when she was working with Kenneth Heilman, a professor of neurology at the University of Florida.
Why does it work with peanut butter?
The ability to smell is associated with the first cranial nerve and is often one of the first things affected in cognitive decline. Because peanut butter is a “pure odorant,” it is only detected by the olfactory nerve and is easy to access.
Ingenious...

...and a little scary.

I watched my mom care for her mother for years with patience and an abiding love. Mom has always said that is was "an honor" to provide this care -- and she means it -- but, the experience marked me even as an observer. Once grandma passed at 92, several years later my dad began to show similar symptoms of impairment. Though his dementia was supposedly due to a series of small strokes in surgery, Mom once again played the exhausting role of 24/7 caretaker until she could do it no more.

Now my mom, some 6 years later, has lost her sense of smell. She does not seems cognitively impaired so far, but it has me worried, for her and for the medical future of my siblings and myself. So after stumbling upon this article today I felt compelled to dare myself to try the test just now.

I am happy to report both nostrils seem to be firing, as I smelled the rich, nutty aroma equally.

Has Alzheimer's affected your life or that of someone you love? Here's how they conducted the test: Disclosure: I'm no doc! Seek qualified medical advice if you are afraid you might be at risk!

[P]atients who were coming to the clinic...sat down with a clinician, 14 grams of peanut butter—which equals about one tablespoon—and a metric ruler.

The patient closed his or her eyes and mouth and blocked one nostril. The clinician opened the peanut butter container and held the ruler next to the open nostril while the patient breathed normally. The clinician then moved the peanut butter up the ruler one centimeter at a time during the patient’s exhale until the person could detect an odor.

The distance was recorded and the procedure repeated on the other nostril after a 90-second delay.

Patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease had a dramatic difference in detecting odor between the left and right nostril—the left nostril was impaired and did not detect the smell until it was an average of 10 centimeters closer to the nose than the right nostril had made the detection in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Happy sniffing, if you dare.
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