How's this for a low-tech way of diagnosing Alzheimer's: sniffing peanut butter. Researchers at the University of Florida have discovered some merit to the bizarre-sounding notion, reports Futurity. Knowing that patients in cognitive decline often lose their sense of smell first, the researchers had patients sniff a dollop of peanut butter with each nostril separately. They used a ruler to measure the point at which people detected the odor (and to keep the other nostril closed).
The weird result: People with a confirmed diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer's could smell it fine with their right nostril, but not their left, say the UF scientists. Generally speaking, the right nostril picked up on it 10cm before the left one. Also of note: The left-right difference is specific to Alzheimer's, and doesn't apply to other forms of dementia. "At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis," says the lead researcher. "But we plan to study patients with mild cognitive impairment to see if this test might be used to predict which patients are going to get Alzheimer’s disease." Bravo, says Dan Nosowitz at PopSci. This could end up being an easy, cheap, and effective weapon in the Alzheimer's fight. (Another recent study found what the researcher calls a "pretty scary" result: Too much copper in the diet may increase Alzheimer's risk.)