Age-related Smelling Loss Significantly Worse in African-Americans

Jayant Pinto, MD

The ability to distinguish between odors declines steadily with age, but a new study by Jayant Pinto, MD, shows that African-Americans have a much greater decrease in their sense of smell than Caucasians. This can have serious consequences. Olfactory loss often leads to impaired nutrition. It also may be an early warning sign of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and can predict death.

The study, published early online in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, also found that as they aged, African-Americans and Hispanics had comparable deficits:

“We have long known that men begin to lose their sense of smell some years sooner than women, but this is the first study to point to racial or ethnic differences,” said study author Jayant Pinto, MD, associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago. “What surprised us was the magnitude of the difference. The racial disparity was almost twice as large as the well-documented difference between men and women.”

Read more about Dr. Pinto’s study in our Newsroom.

Pinto JM, Schumm LP, Wroblewski KE, Kern DW, & McClintock MK (2013). Racial Disparities in Olfactory Loss Among Older Adults in the United States. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences PMID: 23689829

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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