Your sense of smell could be the key to helping you live longer

Well now. Your chance of dying could depend on your sense of smell. Big claim. How do we know?

Scientists from Stockholm University have followed more than 1,700 Swedes, aged between 40 and 90, for 10 years.

At the beginning of the study they were asked to identify 13 different smells.

Researchers found that a person’s chance of death was linked to how well they scored in the test.

Furthermore, each wrong answer increased their risk of dying over the study period by nearly 10%.

The results contribute to growing evidence that smell testing gives a valuable window into the health of the brain as it ages – just as the back of the eye does to a skilled doctor.


The retina is, after all, an extension of the brain, and by looking into it, a doctor can not only see the brain itself, but also the condition of the arteries.

Looking at the back of the eye is like looking through a window on the rest of the body. So it is with your sense of smell.

The receptors in your nose are the nervous extensions of the brain.

“Our results were not explained by dementia, which was previously linked to smell loss,” said Dr Jonas Olofsson, senior author of the study which was published in the Journal of the
American Geriatrics Society.

“Instead, mortality risk was uniquely predicted by smell loss.

“In our future research, we will try to pinpoint the biological processes that can explain this phenomenon.”


An intriguing study done at the University of Florida found it may be possible to diagnose Alzheimer’s by testing how close a person needs to be to a peanut to smell it.

Patients who needed the nut to be at least 6cm closer to the left nostril than to the right before they could detect its smell were all diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

A study by Harvard University also found that people with Alzheimer’s had greater difficulty identifying 10 common smells, including lemon, mint and strawberry.

Scientists believe that plaques which clog up brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients may damage the olfactory nerves where they originate in the brain, giving a hint of what’s to come.

However, if you lose your sense of smell temporarily, don’t panic as it can be caused by other conditions, such as sinusitis or a nasal polyp.

Quite often you can lose your sense of smell temporarily with a cold.