Men and women who have lost their sense of smell are almost six times more likely than others to die within the next five years, a new study found. Have you noticed any changes in the way the food smells or even your perfume? If you have, then you could be seriously ill.

According to the U.S study: ‘the inability to identify fish, rose, leather, orange, and peppermint – the five scents used in the experiment – could predict death within five years Smell is considered to be the most underappreciated and undervalued of all human senses. According to scientists ‘a poor sense of smell raises the odds of death more than established medical conditions including cancer.’


More than 3000 men and women aged between 57 and 85 participated; they were asked to sniff the scent given off by felt tip-pen like gadgets and they were given four possible answers. The smell test took just three minutes to complete and the five different fragrances used, in order of increasing difficulty, were: peppermint, fish, orange, rose and leather.

The researchers explained that ‘while the dulling of the sense does not directly cause death, it provides ‘early warning that something has gone badly wrong’. A simple smell test could be used to identify pensioners most at risk of an early death.’ (DailyMail)

The majority of the participants got at least four out of five fragrances right, meaning they had a normal sense of smell. While 20% only identified two or three smells, some 3.5% got only one or even none right. These people were classified as ‘anosmic’  – five years later 430 of these and men had died.

Although those who had failed the test were up to six times more likely to have died compared to the ones who had a normal sense of smell, British experts warned people against panicking. They emphasised the need for more research in order to really established the study’s outcome.

rose smell

Poor sense of smell provides an early warning sign that something is not working properly. Dr Pinto said: ‘we think that loss of sense of smell is like the canary in the coal mine. It doesn’t directly cause death, but it’s a harbinger, an early warning that something has gone badly wrong.’

One possible explanation for this is that the olfactory nerve which carried valuable information on smell from the nose to the brain, has become old and worn and unable to repair itself. This could mean the same for the brain and body. Another possibility is that various pollutants and poisons we have inhaled in have damaged our sense of smell before harming the brain and body.

Nirmal Kumar, a consultant head and neck surgeon urged scientists to conduct extensive research and allow participants to be tested on more than just 5 kinds of smell. He added that people who are starting to lose their sense of smell shouldn’t panic but should contact their doctor for further testing as it is a known symptom leading to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

(Source: ScienceDaily)

Psychologist, world citizen, mother - Effie is one half of the founding pair. She can bring to life any party with either a smile, or a strong opinion. If like us you can't get enough of Effie, visit her blog at

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