This Test Could Help Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease Before Memory Loss Happens

It could change the future of Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment.
A simple smell and taste test could be key to diagnosing Alzheimer's early.
Emilija Manevska via Getty Images
A simple smell and taste test could be key to diagnosing Alzheimer's early.

The disease causes a decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. These symptoms can slowly appear over time, making early detection and diagnosis difficult for sufferers and doctors.

However, new research from scientists at the University of Warwick’s WMG department offers a promising future for the diagnosis and treatment of this difficult condition.

Scientists are working on a groundbreaking smell and taste test that can identify individuals with Alzheimer’s disease before they start to show symptoms of memory loss.

A simple test that could change lives

Researchers are hoping to utilise a machine that is capable of accurately creating different flavours. Using this machine, patients will be asked to smell and drink different flavour solutions and provide descriptions of them.

If patients aren’t easily identifying the tastes and smells, they’ll be referred for further examinations which the researchers hope could potentially lead to an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and enable timely interventions in treatment.

This method of diagnostics is thought to provide a more accurate determination of a person’s perception ability.

It’s also a lot less invasive than many of the ways that we currently diagnose Alzheimer’s which, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, can include cognitive or blood tests; MRI, CT or PET brain imaging; and neurological examinations.

These tests all take place once memory loss has occurred meaning that often the disease is advancing.

Professor Alan Chalmers, from the University of Warwick, said: “Our preliminary data shows that there is a difference in the flavour detection of those with Alzheimer’s compared to those without the disease, so we hope to get further backing and implement these screening tests UK-wide.”

Early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should speak to your doctor:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life,
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems,
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks,
  • Confusion with time or places,
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships,
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing,
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps,
  • Decreased or poor judgements with decision making,
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities,
  • Changes in mood or personality.