Peanut butter diagnoses Alzheimer’s

A study has found that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be confirmed with peanut butter.

Peanut butter diagnoses Alzheimer’s

A small pilot study, published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, has found that a diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s disease can be confirmed with a ruler and a dollop of peanut butter.

The ability to smell is associated with the first cranial nerve and is often one of the first things to be affected by cognitive decline. Jennifer Stamps, the graduate student who first conceived of the study, said she came up with the idea when she was shadowing doctors at Dr Heilman’s clinic. She noticed that potential Alzheimer’s patients were not tested for their sense of smell. When she discussed her idea to test patients’ sense of smell, Dr Heilman replied, “If you can come up with something quick and inexpensive, we can do it.”

Peanut butter was chosen for the study as it is a ‘pure odorant’, which is only detected by the olfactory nerve, also known as a person’s sense of smell.

The study was undertaken in Dr Heilman’s clinic. Patients who came into the clinic for standard Alzheimer’s testing were also asked to sit the ‘peanut butter test’. To perform the peanut butter test a clinician has about one tablespoon of peanut butter in a container. Patients were asked to sit down, close their eyes and mouth and block one nostril. The clinician would then hold a metric ruler beside the patient’s nose, facing outward. The container of peanut butter would be opened and the clinician would move the container one centimetre closer to the patient’s nose every time the patient exhaled. By doing this the clinician was able to determine at what distance the patient could detect the peanut butter through smell. The results were recorded and the patient was asked to do the same with the other nostril after a short delay. The clinicians running the test did not know the patient’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The results showed that patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease had dramatically different abilities of smell between their left and right nostrils. The left nostril was impaired in those with Alzheimer’s - the peanut butter had to be, on average, 10 centimetres closer to the patient’s face for the left nostril to detect it compared to when testing the patient’s right nostril.

Using a person’s sense of smell is a cheap, easy and non-invasive way to test for cognitive impairment. This study is important as it may allow for Alzheimer’s tests to be conducted in areas without access to expensive equipment. It is also one more way to confirm a notoriously difficult diagnosis.

What do you think? Is there genius in the simplicity of this test? Or has medicine taken a step backwards if we are resorting to sandwich spreads as diagnostic tools?


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    24th Oct 2013
    Great idea, I'll do the test at home tonight after work, if I remember
    25th Oct 2013
    Best laugh I've had all day, cheers!
    24th Oct 2013
    Pretty simple and cost effective. I wonder how quickly doctors and drug companies will latch on to this and produce a substance reeking of peanut butter that goes onto a cotton ball and costs $300 a time to do. It;s a threat to drug companies and iatrogenic income if its a simple home product.
    24th Oct 2013
    I think that is simplistic approach. there are various reasons why sense of smell is impaired without being associated with Alzheimer such as chronic sinusitis.
    grumpy old woman
    24th Oct 2013
    would chronic sinusitis only affect one nostril though? It is the difference between the two which they seem to be measuring.
    24th Oct 2013
    With conditions such as chronic sniusitis there are methods of circumventing the problem prior to the test. One can use various nasal drops to reduce the amount of swelling in the nostrils caused by sinus.
    Once the sinus membranes have shrunk to near normal the test could then be conducted to test the sense of smell. It is rare that sinusitis interferes with sense of smell. Albeit that some smells may have to be strong in odour to be experienced if the nares are blocked
    24th Oct 2013
    actually you can clear your nasal just with using steam often those nasal drops are horrible and you can taste it afterwards.
    Would be dreadful if you had severe sinusitis, and could smell anything. Muck up the test for sure would it lol
    24th Oct 2013
    The idea of linking olfactory senses to cognitive function is not new. None of the tests used previously have proven to be accurate. This new test has been strongly criticised by experts in the field for various reasons, including small sample size reducing the ability to draw accurate conclusions. There are too many other variables affecting the result reliability. Anyone wishing to learn more should do a search on the topic to seek further expert comment dismissing this new test.
    24th Oct 2013
    To Grumpy Old Woman - Yes, sinusitis can affect one side more than the other, as can a deviated nasal septum and numerous other conditions.
    24th Oct 2013
    and of course "Experts" would definitely pooh hoo the test. if they are experts how come they havent come up with a more advanced and reliable test?

    Who are these "Experts"? puppets of drug companies probably. who have been paid to make comments to the negative. Don't take too much notice of Experts who have not been named and possibly are on some drug companies books for gratuitous payments. remember and Xpert is often a drip under pressure
    24th Oct 2013
    Nettiser: As suggested, do a search for this story and you will find the names of all the drips under pressure that have made comments. If given a choice, I prefer to sway the way of learned people in a field compared to those ignorant of the facts. Conspiracy theorists are fine if they also support their arguments with facts and identify themselves the same way they expect others to declare identity. Science cautions not to make hasty judgements, yet still makes mistakes. No doubt the communication apparatus Nettiser is using to post was created by experts, yet it is still used. Perhaps a bitter information pill to swallow - and one not tainted by Pharmaceutical companies!
    24th Oct 2013
    but MRPHysio, it is the drug companies that get their nose out of joint. Cause they would like just give us a pill for every problem in this world and there are many puppets under their wings!!
    Like for acids problems. There is so much rubbish you can buy for that in the chemist, when all you need is bi-carb of soda in a bit of water, or in a 600ml bottle of water with about quarter a teaspoon, and drink that through out the day, and your acid levels will sort themselves out depending on the amount of pollutants you ingest!!!
    So there are many worries out there to consider. Also The Big company Monsanto, who is causing problems around the world. And we ingest all their left overs.
    Cause there are many questions, WHY are we getting so many cancers? chemicals, has got to be the answer? I"M no chemist, but i'm nO Dummy either :P
    26th Oct 2013
    Mr Physio, I worked in the medical field for 22 years My background was senior lecturer in medicine I have a Bachelor of Science. I am also a Paramedic with the State Ambulance, So i consider my self well informed and qualified to make criticisms of both the Medical and Pharmaceutical profession.
    I suggest you go read this book "BAD PHARMA" by Ben Goldacre and have your eyes opened to the reality of what drug companies really care about. One thing it isn't is your health! Many of these drug companies have done more harm to patients than offer cures or relief.
    26th Oct 2013
    Buby & Nettiser: Perhaps you both misunderstand my point. It is agreed that individuals, groups, businesses and Governments make mistakes, eg Pharmaceutical Companies.
    I am aware of the book Big Pharma and do not dispute that bad practise can occur, everywhere. However, I do not like people, dummies or learned, throwing the baby out with the bath water. No doubt, despite the Big Pharma expose', that both Buby and Nettiser would have both used and or recommended / prescribed medications that have come from the Pharmaceutical Industry.
    Many hundred of thousands if not millions of lives have been saved by medication (no doubt millions more if prices were lower for the third world - but that is a different argument) produced by Big Pharma. It is a very expensive exercise to develop medication to the point of it being marketed, with huge expenses for numerous failed trials. The successful ones pay for the failures.
    There is also a limited time that the investment can be made back before licenses cease and generic medications can copy the original for cheaper prices as the other companies do not need to spend on development. Money also needs to be put aside in case the drug has unforeseen problems that harm certain people.
    And no - I have no ties in any way with Pharmaceutical companies and as a Physio cannot prescribe medication.
    So, before my comments are misunderstood, do more background research on other opinions. Science is not perfect, by definition, because the scientific method involves experiment and multiple proof, before ideas are accepted. It only takes one accepted disproof of a theory for the idea to lose scientific currency. Science, as I have said, can get it wrong but is much better than the alternative which is alternative medicine.
    As Nettiser correctly states, the olfactory area has been well documented as an important pointer to brain function. No argument. The problem is that previous attempts to use this information for tests related to dementia have failed and this test does not have sufficient scientific validity - yet.
    My original comments here were made due to loose statements made by other posters to this blog including broad brush statements effectively excluding an entire branch of health care due to that branch (Pharmaceutical Companies) acting badly in some cases.
    As someone said, "when alternative medicine works, it is actually medicine".
    24th Oct 2013
    After an operation for polyps in the sinuses, my sense of smell has been impaired, would that alter the results in a test using peanut butter?
    24th Oct 2013
    Hello Maxzee: If the test does what it says it does (and this is doubtful), results would be compromised. Use of other medications etc to 'clear' the sinuses may also interfere with the test results. Your sense of smell may return if the operation was recent - swelling, anaesthetic medications etc may still be affecting your ability to smell. If the surgery was over 6 weeks ago and you have no swelling or post op infection, then further improvement may not occur. There are other reasons for a decreased sense of smell besides dementia.If you are concerned, you could see your Doctor for an opinion.
    24th Oct 2013
    Maxzee. Just put it on your toast. The Aborigines found out, that over the the other side of the Great Dividing Range, the oil of the fresh water eels will cure any ear infections, after boiling and scooped from the top. The eels ie. Not the ears. Also, around "Billabongs", out there, if one harvests the "Reeds" and makes a pultice, ( sorry I don't know how to spell that), apply regularly for two weeks, it will cure any SKIN CANCERs. So Peanut Butter might not be so wrong.
    Nan Norma
    24th Oct 2013
    If it gives a true diagnosis, why not. I can see us all heading to the peanut butter jar.
    Pass the Ductape
    25th Oct 2013
    That's right. if it works who cares?
    26th Oct 2013
    Why the difference between the left and right nostrils?
    26th Oct 2013
    It doesn't really matter, but for your information one nostril is usually bigger than the other. The left side is closer to the 1st cranial nerve which is associated with smell. However, the test merely looks for diminished detection of the sense of smell on one side be it the left or the right. It possibly has no correlation to the location of the nerve itself, that i believe is only theoretical that there is advantage. Some people may have damaged the sense of smell detection via one nostril from trauma or some genetic abnormality. The test is a simple way of detecting a deterioration of the ability to detect over both distance from the nostril and possibly over time. One testing session is not conclusive in my opinion. However it is cheap, simple and you don't have to get a mortgage to attend a specialist to carry out the experiment.

    A scientific study in the US by a chap named Doty was one of the first scientists to find a link between losing one's sense of smell and Parkinson's disease. "Our sense of smell is directly linked to numerous functions of the brain. Olfaction is a good model system for other, more complicated, brain circuits. Understanding our sense of smell, or lack thereof, offers broader insights into brain functions and diseases stemming from the brain."
    11th Nov 2013
    Good to hear of something that is used instead of drugs. Now how to turn Peanut butter into a pill that I can sell????
    17th Nov 2013
    This is hardly new. More sophisticated studies than using peanut paste have been done. As pointed out, there are numerous reasons for loss of sense of smell. Tests were done on those already with mild cognitive impairment.

    It has been known for a long time that people with Alzheimer's disease, and other dementias, have difficulty recognizing smells and that smell is affected before other senses.

    A study was undertaken at NY State Psychiatric Institute. Their findings demonstrated that an inability of people with MCI to identify certain odours indicated they would develop Alzheimer's.

    The study comprised of 150 patients with MCI and 63 three healthy elders followed up for 5 years. Those with cognitive impairment were tested with the ten odors every six months, the healthy elders every year.

    In 2004 the American College of Neurophychopharmacology presented research confirming the above study.

    The researchers have put together lLnatural gas, lilac, lemon and leather.
    17th Nov 2013
    The researchers of the above study compiled a list of the top ten smells which they say are the best predictors of Alzheimer's.

    These are; strawberry, smoke, soap, menthol, clove, pineapple, natural gas, lilac, lemon and leather.

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