Alzheimer’s Peanut Butter Sniff Test Could Enable Early Diagnosis

The mystery of Alzheimer’s may have gotten a peanut butter related breakthrough recently, as a new study has discovered a link between the two that may help spot the puzzling form of dementia earlier.

The peanut butter test addresses one of Alzheimer’s biggest challenges — identifying the early markers of the eventually fatal cognitive condition.

Part of the difficulty is that diagnostic confirmation of Alzheimer’s remains elusive. However, researchers at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste made a connection between Alzheimer’s symptoms and peanut butter that could change how we diagnose the disease in its early stages.

When the onset of Alzheimer’s begins, patients experience a degradation of functionality in the front temporal lobe of the brain — responsible for short term memory as well as olfactory processing. As such, early symptoms of the enigmatic disease often involve the loss of those two abilities to some degree.

University of Florida grad student Jennifer Stamps developed a test to measure smell acuity in possible Alzheimer’s patients — using a cup of peanut butter at various distances from the nostrils.

The research, published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, explains the study — and LiveScience reports:

“Stamps asked people visiting the McKnight clinic to close their eyes and block one nostril, and to tell her when they could smell a small cup of peanut butter; the test was then repeated on the opposite side of the nose with that nostril blocked… In those patients who were later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the left nostril — which is linked to the left side of the brain — was much less sensitive to the peanut butter smell than the right nostril. On average, the peanut butter needed to be 3.9 inches (10 centimeters) closer to the left nostril before it could be smelled, suggesting some degree of degeneration in the brain’s left hemisphere.”

Stamps spoke about the Alzheimer’s peanut butter breakthrough, saying:

“At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis. 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.”

The Alzheimer’s peanut butter test is believed to be of strong value to clinics, facilities, and areas lacking advanced diagnostic access.