The Sense of Smell in Older Adults Declines When It Comes to Meat, But Not Vanilla

That grandpa and grandma aren’t as good at smelling as they once were, is something that many can relate to. And, it has also been scientifically demonstrated. One’s sense of smell gradually begins to decline from about the age of 55. Until now, it was believed that one’s sense of smell broadly declined with increasing age. However, a study from the University of Copenhagen reports that certain food odors are significantly more affected than others.

The Department of Food Science’s Eva Honnens de Lichtenberg Broge and her fellow researchers have tested the ability of older Danes to perceive everyday food odors. The researchers measured how intensely older adults perceived different food odours, as well as how much they liked the odours.

“Our study shows that the declining sense of smell among older adults is more complex than once believed. While their ability to smell fried meat, onions and mushrooms is markedly weaker, they smell orange, raspberry and vanilla just as well as younger adults. Thus, a declining sense of smell in older adults seems rather odor specific. What is really interesting is that how much you like an odor is not necessarily dependent on theintensity perception” says Eva Honnens de Lichtenberg Broge.

For example, liking of seemed to be largely unaffected for fried meat, onions and mushrooms, despite the largest decline in intensity perception was seen for these specific odors. Also the ability to smell coffee declined, among other things, though they didn’t like the aroma of coffee to the same degree as younger adults.

The test subjects included 251 Danes between the ages of 60 and 98 and a control group consisting of 92 people between the ages of 20 and 39.


FOOD ODOURS FROM EVERYDAY LIFE

Instead of using odours of chemical origin, which is commonly the procedure when testing the sense of smell, Eva Honnens de Lichtenberg Broge developed a test kit including 14 natural food odours familiar from everyday life, including bacon, onions, toast, asparagus, coffee, cinnamon, orange and vanilla. The odours were made primarily from essential oils and presented to test subjects by sniffing sticks.


The food odours were chosen based upon commonly consumed foods and dishes that older people often eat and enjoy most according to meal plans and surveys from a Danish catering company that provides food for the elderly.

What’s the story?

The researchers can only speculate as to why the declining sense of smell in older adults seems to be odors specific, and why, in some cases, liking is largely unaffected. However, they can only speculate of why the intensity decline was most pronounced for fried meat, onions and mushrooms – foods that are referred to as ‘savory’ or umami in nature.

“This may be due to the fact that these are common food odours in which saltiness or umami is a dominant taste element. It is widely recognized that salty is the basic taste most affected by aging. Since taste and smell are strongly associated when it comes to food, our perception of aroma may be disturbed if one’s taste perception of saltiness is impaired to begin with,” explains Eva Honnens de Lichtenberg Broge.

Health and quality of life

The researchers hope that their findings can be deployed by those working to improve the meals and dining experiences of older adults. Figures show that half of those over 65 admitted to Danish hospitals are malnourished. The same applies to one in five nursing home residents.

While the sense of smell is important for stimulating appetite and our serotonin levels as well, according to Eva Honnens de Lichtenberg Broge, our study demonstrates that the sensitivity of one’s sense of smell need not be decisive. For several of the food odours, the respondent’s liking of an odour remained unchanged, even while their ability to perceive it had declined.

“Our results show that as long as a food odour is recognizable, its intensity will not determine whether or not you like it. So, if one wants to improve food experiences of older adults, it is more relevant to pay attention to what they enjoy eating than it is to wonder about which aromas seem weaker to them,” concludes Eva Honnens de Lichtenberg Broge.

The study is published in the scientific journal Food Quality and Preference.

Source: University of Copenhagen

FDA Defends Approval of Controversial Alzheimer’s Drug

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease in nearly two decades, in a controversial decision that left the agency defending its reputation and its science.

Aduhelm (aducanumab) treats Alzheimer’s by clearing out amyloid beta, a sticky protein known to form plaques in the brains of early-stage patients.

It is the first approved Alzheimer’s drug meant to attack one of the suspected root causes of the degenerative brain disease. All other drugs on the market manage symptoms, but cannot slow the disease’s progression.

The FDA approved Aduhelm under its “Accelerated Approval” pathway, which does not require conclusive proof that a drug provides a clinical benefit, Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, noted in a media briefing Monday.

Instead, the FDA can issue a conditional approval if a drug is shown to modify a key process in a disease, and that this change is reasonably likely to help patients, Cavazzoni explained.

“We determined this drug favorably modifies a key pathological process, reducing the amount of amyloid plaque in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s, and that this improvement is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit of the drug,” Cavazzoni said.

In granting approval, the FDA ran counter to its own advisory committee of experts, which voted 10 out of 11 against approving Aduhelm, as well as other Alzheimer’s experts that included some of the doctors who ran the drug’s clinical trials in hospitals across the nation.

“The FDA’s decision shows a stunning disregard for science and eviscerates the agency’s standards for approving new drugs,” Dr. Michael Carome, director of health research for Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group, said in a statement. “Because of this reckless action, the agency’s credibility has been irreparably damaged.”

But other groups such as the Alzheimer’s Association hailed the FDA’s decision as opening the way to more extensive research into chronic brain diseases.

Follow-up trial a condition of FDA approval

“This FDA drug approval ushers in a new era in Alzheimer’s treatment and research,” said Maria Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer’s Association. “History has shown us that approvals of the first drug in a new category invigorates the field, increases investments in new treatments and encourages greater innovation. We are hopeful and this is the beginning — both for this drug and for better treatments for Alzheimer’s.”

Cavazzoni said the drug’s developer, Biogen, is required to conduct follow-up tests and prove that the drug actually works to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

“We expect this study to be conducted in a timely manner,” Cavazzoni said. “If the clinical benefit is not confirmed or if the study is not conducted in a timely manner we may, following an administrative process, withdraw this therapy’s approval.”

Aduhelm had a rocky journey to approval, with Biogen shutting down a pair of clinical trials when an FDA advisory committee decided that the drug didn’t work well enough to make a difference in patients.

Seven months later, Biogen reversed itself and applied for FDA approval of Aduhelm, based on more extensive analysis that showed the drug had some positive effect for patients at higher doses.

Groups like Public Citizen accused the agency of colluding with Biogen to promote the drug despite the mixed clinical trial results.

“The close collaboration between the FDA and Biogen before and after the submission of the company’s marketing application for aducanumab dangerously compromised the integrity of the agency’s review and culminated in a biased agency assessment of the drug that discounted the results of the negative trial,” Carome said, calling for an investigation of the decision by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the FDA media briefing, Cavazzoni denied that Biogen had any untoward influence on the agency’s decision to approve the new drug.

“An essential part of our drug review process requires frequent interactions with sponsors, even more so in the case of a very complex data set such as Aduhelm,” Cavazzoni said. “These interactions are an integral part of our work and are necessary to understand the structure of the data, the location of key data points, and specific aspects of study implementation that may impact interpretation of the data.”

Critics say drug is unproven

“I am satisfied that the interaction between members of the review team and the sponsor was appropriate and necessary, given our questions regarding the data in this application,” Cavazzoni added.

Cavazzoni also thanked the members of the FDA advisory committee that recommended against Aduhelm’s approval, saying that they carefully considered the panel’s feedback.

“The data set for Aduhelm was very complex and our review has been thorough,” Cavazzoni said. “We believe the data support accelerated approval, while holding the company accountable for conducting an additional study to confirm the benefits observed in one of the trials, which we fully intend to do.”

The drug’s method of action, removing amyloid beta from the brain, is a point of controversy among Alzheimer’s researchers. While amyloid plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, no medication that lowers amyloid levels has been shown to have any effect on patients’ brain health.

Dr. Peter Stein, director of the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, said in the media briefing that earlier experimental drugs targeting amyloid failed their clinical trials “because the extent of reduction may have been too small to yield clinical benefit.”

Evaluating data collected across clinical trials for seven different drugs targeting amyloid, including Aduhelm, FDA experts concluded there is “a strong relationship between the extent of reduction in plaque and the extent of improvement in clinical benefit,” Stein said.

Biogen is expected to profit handsomely from this approval. The intravenous drug could cost as much as $50,000 a year for patients, according to drug pricing experts surveyed by the Washington Post.

“Approving aducanumab despite the lack of evidence of effectiveness plus the well-documented risk of serious harm will raise false hope for millions of Alzheimer’s patients and their families, potentially bankrupt the Medicare program because of the drug’s projected exorbitant price and impede for years the development of other experimental treatments for the disease,” Carome said.

Source: HealthDay

Does Listening to Calming Music at Bedtime Actually Help You Sleep?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has found that listening to music can help older adults sleep better.

Researchers from the National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Taiwan combined the results of past studies to understand the effect that listening to music can have on the quality of older adults’ sleep. Their work suggests that:

  • Older adults (ages 60 and up) living at home sleep better when they listen to music for 30 minutes to one hour at bedtime.
  • Calm music improves older adults’ sleep quality better than rhythmic music does.
  • Older adults should listen to music for more than four weeks to see the most benefit from listening to music.

Why Older Adults Have Trouble Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

As we age, our sleep cycles change and make a good night’s sleep harder to achieve. What does it really mean to get a good night’s sleep? If you wake up rested and ready to start your day, you probably slept deeply the night before. But if you’re tired during the day, need coffee to keep you going, or wake up several times during the night, you may not be getting the deep sleep you need. According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

But studies have shown that 40 to 70 percent of older adults have sleep problems and over 40 percent have insomnia, meaning they wake up often during the night or too early in the morning. Sleep problems can make you feel irritable and depressed, can cause memory problems, and can even lead to falls or accidents.

How the Researchers Studied the Effect of Music on Older Adults’ Quality of Sleep

For their study, the researchers searched for past studies that tested the effect of listening to music on older adults with sleep problems who live at home. They looked at five studies with 288 participants. Half of these people listened to music; the other half got the usual or no treatment for their sleep problems. People who were treated with music listened to either calming or rhythmic music for 30 minutes to one hour, over a period ranging from two days to three months. (Calming music has slow tempo of 60 to 80 beats per minute and a smooth melody, while rhythmic music is faster and louder.) All participants answered questions about how well they thought they were sleeping. Each participant ended up with a score between 0 and 21 for the quality of their sleep.

The researchers looked at the difference in average scores for:

  • people who listened to music compared to people who did not listen to music;
  • people who listened to calm music compared to people who listened to rhythmic music;
  • and people who listened to music for less than four weeks compared to people who listened to music for more than four weeks.

What the Researchers Learned

Listening to calming music at bedtime improved sleep quality in older adults, and calming music was much better at improving sleep quality than rhythmic music. The researchers said that calming music may improve sleep by slowing your heart rate and breathing, and lowering your blood pressure.[3] This, in turn helps lower your levels of stress and anxiety.

Researchers also learned that listening to music for longer than four weeks is better at improving sleep quality than listening to music for a shorter length of time.

Limits of the Study

  • Researchers only looked at studies published in English and Chinese, meaning they may have missed studies in other languages on the effect of listening to music on sleep in older adults.
  • Results may not apply to older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.
  • In the studies researchers used, people who listened to music received more attention from researchers than did people who got standard or no treatment for their sleep problems. This means that sleep improvements in the music therapy group could be due to that extra attention.
  • Since the different studies used different kinds of music, researchers could not single out which type of calming music improved sleep the most.
  • All of the people in the study had similar kinds of sleep problems. This means listening to music may not help people with other kinds of sleep problems.

What this Study Means for You

If you’re having trouble sleeping, listening to music can be a safe, effective, and easy way to help you fall and stay asleep. It may also reduce your need for medication to help you sleep.

Source: Health in Aging

New Research: Humans Could Live up to 150 Years

Emily Willingham wrote . . . . . . . . .

A study counts blood cells and footsteps to predict a hard limit to our longevity.

The chorus of the theme song for the movie Fame, performed by actress Irene Cara, includes the line “I’m gonna live forever.” Cara was, of course, singing about the posthumous longevity that fame can confer. But a literal expression of this hubris resonates in some corners of the world—especially in the technology industry. In Silicon Valley, immortality is sometimes elevated to the status of a corporeal goal. Plenty of big names in big tech have sunk funding into ventures to solve the problem of death as if it were just an upgrade to your smartphone’s operating system.

Yet what if death simply cannot be hacked and longevity will always have a ceiling, no matter what we do? Researchers have now taken on the question of how long we can live if, by some combination of serendipity and genetics, we do not die from cancer, heart disease or getting hit by a bus. They report that when omitting things that usually kill us, our body’s capacity to restore equilibrium to its myriad structural and metabolic systems after disruptions still fades with time. And even if we make it through life with few stressors, this incremental decline sets the maximum life span for humans at somewhere between 120 and 150 years. In the end, if the obvious hazards do not take our lives, this fundamental loss of resilience will do so, the researchers conclude in findings published on May 25 in Nature Communications.

“They are asking the question of ‘What’s the longest life that could be lived by a human complex system if everything else went really well, and it’s in a stressor-free environment?’” says Heather Whitson, director of the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, who was not involved in the paper. The team’s results point to an underlying “pace of aging” that sets the limits on lifespan, she says.

For the study, Timothy Pyrkov, a researcher at a Singapore-based company called Gero, and his colleagues looked at this “pace of aging” in three large cohorts in the U.S., the U.K. and Russia. To evaluate deviations from stable health, they assessed changes in blood cell counts and the daily number of steps taken and analyzed them by age groups.

For both blood cell and step counts, the pattern was the same: as age increased, some factor beyond disease drove a predictable and incremental decline in the body’s ability to return blood cells or gait to a stable level after a disruption. When Pyrkov and his colleagues in Moscow and Buffalo, N.Y., used this predictable pace of decline to determine when resilience would disappear entirely, leading to death, they found a range of 120 to 150 years. (In 1997 Jeanne Calment, the oldest person on record to have ever lived, died in France at the age of 122.)

The researchers also found that with age, the body’s response to insults could increasingly range far from a stable normal, requiring more time for recovery. Whitson says that this result makes sense: A healthy young person can produce a rapid physiological response to adjust to fluctuations and restore a personal norm. But in an older person, she says, “everything is just a little bit dampened, a little slower to respond, and you can get overshoots,” such as when an illness brings on big swings in blood pressure.

Measurements such as blood pressure and blood cell counts have a known healthy range, however, Whitson points out, whereas step counts are highly personal. The fact that Pyrkov and his colleagues chose a variable that is so different from blood counts and still discovered the same decline over time may suggest a real pace-of-aging factor in play across different domains.

Study co-author Peter Fedichev, who trained as a physicist and co-founded Gero, says that although most biologists would view blood cell counts and step counts as “pretty different,” the fact that both sources “paint exactly the same future” suggests that this pace-of-aging component is real.

The authors pointed to social factors that reflect the findings. “We observed a steep turn at about the age of 35 to 40 years that was quite surprising,” Pyrkov says. For example, he notes, this period is often a time when an athlete’s sports career ends, “an indication that something in physiology may really be changing at this age.”

The desire to unlock the secrets of immortality has likely been around as long as humans’ awareness of death. But a long life span is not the same as a long health span, says S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who was not involved in the work. “The focus shouldn’t be on living longer but on living healthier longer,” he says.

“Death is not the only thing that matters,” Whitson says. “Other things, like quality of life, start mattering more and more as people experience the loss of them.” The death modeled in this study, she says, “is the ultimate lingering death. And the question is: Can we extend life without also extending the proportion of time that people go through a frail state?”

The researchers’ “final conclusion is interesting to see,” says Olshansky. He characterizes it as “Hey, guess what? Treating diseases in the long run is not going to have the effect that you might want it to have. These fundamental biological processes of aging are going to continue.”

The idea of slowing down the aging process has drawn attention, not just from Silicon Valley types who dream about uploading their memories to computers but also from a cadre of researchers who view such interventions as a means to “compress morbidity”—to diminish illness and infirmity at the end of life to extend health span. The question of whether this will have any impact on the fundamental upper limits identified in the Nature Communications paper remains highly speculative. But some studies are being launched—testing the diabetes drug metformin, for example—with the goal of attenuating hallmark indicators of aging.

In this same vein, Fedichev and his team are not discouraged by their estimates of maximum human life span. His view is that their research marks the beginning of a longer journey. “Measuring something is the first step before producing an intervention,” Fedichev says. As he puts it, the next steps, now that the team has measured this independent pace of aging, will be to find ways to “intercept the loss of resilience.”

Source : Scientific American

Older Adults Having a Poor Sense of Smell May Face a Higher Risk of Pneumonia

Emilie Lorditch wrote . . . . . . . . .

An acute loss of smell is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, but for two decades it has been linked to other maladies among them Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Now, a poor sense of smell may signify a higher risk of pneumonia in older adults, says a team of Michigan State University researchers.

“About a quarter of adults 65 years or older have a poor sense of smell,” said Honglei Chen, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics within Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. “Unlike vision or hearing impairment, this sensory deficit has been largely neglected; more than two-thirds of people with a poor sense of smell do not know they have it.”

In a first-of-its-kind study, Chen and his team found a possible link between poor sense of smell and a higher risk of pneumonia hospitalization. They analyzed 13 years of health data from 2,494 older adults, ages 71-82, from metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Memphis, Tennessee. This study aimed to examine whether a poor sense of smell in older adults is associated with a higher future risk of developing pneumonia.

Chen’s research was published in the journal The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

The participants were given a Brief Smell Identification Test, or B-SIT, using common smells such as lemons and gasoline to determine if their sense of smell was good, moderate or poor. Then, the participants were monitored for the next 13 years using clinical exams and follow-up phone calls to identify hospitalization due to pneumonia.

The researchers found that compared with participants who had a good sense of smell, participants with a poor sense of smell were about 50% more likely to be hospitalized with pneumonia at any time point during the 13-year follow-up. Among participants (with a poor sense of smell) who never had had pneumonia before, the risk of having the first-ever pneumonia was about 40% higher.

“To our knowledge, this study provides the first epidemiological evidence that poor olfaction (sense of smell) is associated with a long-term higher risk of pneumonia in older adults,” said Yaqun Yuan, a postdoctoral fellow in Chen’s research group.

This study provides novel evidence that a poor sense of smell may have broader health implications beyond its connections to Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

“This is just an example of how little we know about this common sensory deficit,” Chen said. “Either as a risk factor or as a marker, poor sense of smell in older adults may herald multiple chronic diseases beyond what we have known about. To understand what this common sensory deficit means for our health, we need to think outside of the box.”

Source: Michigan State University