A study published in the January issue of the Journal of Neuroscience has linked the loss of smell to the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center found evidence suggesting that the formation of amyloid plaques, which build up in the brain, might also be responsible for the reduced sense of smell that many of those who suffer from Alzheimer's experience.
Because early detection can sometimes slow the progression of the condition, instructing doctors about the early warning signs of the disease might increase the overall quality of Alzheimer's care in the U.S.
"This is a revealing finding because unlike a brain scan, a laboratory-designed olfactory test may be an inexpensive alternative to early diagnosis of Alzheimer's," Daniel W. Wesson, a co-author of the project, said in a statement.
Advances in Alzheimer's treatment will be particularly important in the coming years. According to the Mayo clinic, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and nearly 5 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from the condition.