People who lose their sense of smell in middle age are more likely to die early, according to a new study.
Alzheimer’s disease has previously been linked to loss of smell, however this new study found that those who didn’t develop the disease also had a higher risk of premature death if they’d lost their sense of smell.
Anosmia is the medical term for loss of the sense of smell. It’s usually caused by a nasal condition, such as sinusitis, or a brain injury.
The new study of adults aged 40 to 90 years old linked a poor sense of smell to an increased risk of dying.
During the study, which spanned 10 years, 411 of 1,774 participants died.
After researchers from Stockholm University factored in issues such as demographic, health background and brain function, they discovered that people who had lost their sense of smell had a 19% higher risk of early death than individuals with normal smell function.
“Our results were not explained by dementia, which was previously linked to smell loss. Instead, mortality risk was uniquely predicted by smell loss,” said Dr Jonas Olofsson, senior author of the study.
“In our future research, we will try to pinpoint the biological processes that can explain this phenomenon.”
The results contribute to growing evidence that assessments of smell function might provide insights on the ageing brain.