New Alzheimer's tests look at sights and smells

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Tests involving the senses may be the latest to offer hope in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, which is not definitively diagnosed until death and an autopsy is performed. But now we may be steps closer as tests using smell, diabetic medication and your eyes are now moving forward.

Bob Carter, President and CEO of Senior Friendship Centers, lost both parents to Alzheimer’s disease. “My dad had the onset, actually. That was one of the reasons for moving my dad from their home of fifty years.”

He says a memory test performed by a physician included lots of questions. “Who's the current president, what date.”

He learned of testing at the University of Florida through his girlfriend’s daughter, a food technologist researching for her book Taste What You're Missing. “And also found out about the research with regards to taste and smell, and the connection with Alzheimer’s.”

Erin McLeod, Senior Vice President at the Senior Friendship Center, has connections to Alzheimer’s. “My grandfather also suffered from Alzheimer’s. He lived with Alzheimer’s for over ten years.”

She heard of the smell test on the radio while driving. “It was a small pilot program that they were running at the University of Florida, my alma mater, and I was excited by that.”

This test was neither complicated, painful or time consuming. “

New research finds that something as simple as smelling peanut butter may help detect if you have Alzheimer’s disease.  Patients’ ability to smell about a tablespoon of peanut butter was measured in each nostril. They found patients with early stage Alzheimer’s disease had less ability to smell the peanut butter through their left nostril.

“So when I heard about this I said, wow! It made me want to run home and open a jar of peanut butter and just test it myself,” says McLeod.

While other new research suggests sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea may raise Alzheimer’s risk, another study finds the Type 2 diabetes drug sold under the name Actos may reduce risk, and yet another is looking at your eyes.

“During formation, the eyes are an out-pouching of your brain, and so things that happen in the brain are also happening in your eyes. And in the case of Alzheimer's, we can look in the eye and see that happening,” says Dr. Cathleen McCabe of The Eye Associates.

Amaloid is accumulating in the retina, and in some cases in the lens, and use a special substance that identifies that amaloid by binding with it.