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Could a Fading Sense of Smell Point to Earlier Death?

Older adults who have trouble smelling the roses -- literally -- may face an increased risk of dying in the next several years, new research suggests. In a study of over 3,000 older Americans, researchers found those who were unable to detect scents such as rose, orange and peppermint were more than three times as likely to die in the next five years, versus those with a sharp sense of smell. In fact, anosmia -- the inability to distinguish odors -- was a bigger predictor of death than major killers such as heart disease, lung disease or cancer, the researchers reported Oct. 1 in the online journal PLOS One. "We were pretty surprised it was such a strong predictor," said lead researcher Dr. Jayant Pinto, a surgeon at the University of Chicago who specializes in nasal disorders. Now, the question is why. No one is saying anosmia itself kills people, stressed Pamela Dalton, a researcher at the nonprofit Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "There's no need for people to be scared," said Dalton, who wasn't involved in the study. But, she said, the findings are important, because they suggest that problems with smell detection can sometimes be a "harbinger" of health issues to come. More via MSN.

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