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Peanut Butter Test Could Help Detect Alzheimer’s

Update Date: Oct 09, 2013 03:42 PM EDT

Peanut butter can most likely be found in almost everyone's pantry. Even though this food staple is usually eaten, researchers found another way to use peanut butter for science. In this study, researchers utilized peanut butter and a standard ruler to help them detect the early stages of the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer's disease.

The research team from the University of Florida headed by Jennifer Stamps, a graduate student in the University's McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste conducted a pilot study. The study involved using a dollop of peanut butter to test participants' smell sensitivity. Stamps, who worked with Dr. Kenneth Heilman, the James E Rooks distinguished professor of neurology and health psychology at UF College of Medicine's department of Neurology, noticed that patients' ability to smell was often left unchecked.

The sense of smell is tied to the first cranial nerve, which has been associated as one of the first regions to be affected by mental decline. Since peanut butter has a strong smell and is very easy to attain, Stamps devised a study to test smell sensitivity. Stamps and her colleagues tested 24 patients who came into Heilman'c clinic. The patients had their eyes closed and one nostril blocked when they were asked to smell 14 grams, equivalent to one tablespoon, of peanut butter. Alongside the dollop of peanut butter, researchers used a ruler. They moved the tablespoon of peanut butter up one centimeter at a time and examined the participant's olfactory response. The procedure was then repeated with the other nostril after a 90 second delay.

The researchers found that patients who had early signs of Alzheimer's appeared to have more difficulty smelling the peanut butter between the nostrils. The left nostril appeared to be less sensitive to the scent until the peanut butter was an average of 10 centimeters closer to the nose. The researchers found that for patients with other types of dementia, this differentiation between the left and right nostril was not noticeable.

"At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis," Stamps said according to Medical Xpress. "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 study was published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences.

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