After analyzing the results, they discovered that the ability to identify odors decreases with age, while phantom odor perception seems to improve with age.
Furthermore, they said that one in 15 Americans experience phantom odors. It was most prevalent among adults aged 40-60, and twice as many women as men reported the condition, particularly women under age 60.
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"Problems with the sense of smell are often overlooked, despite their importance. They can have a big impact on appetite, food preferences, and the ability to smell danger signals such as fire, gas leaks, and spoiled food," Judith A. Cooper, acting director of the NIDCD, said in a statement.
The authors also explained that those “who perceive strong phantom odors often have a miserable quality of life, and sometimes cannot maintain a healthy weight.”
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The scientists do not yet know the causes of phantom odor perception. However, they hypothesized that it could be related to overactive odor sensing cells.
“A good first step in understanding any medical condition is a clear description of the phenomenon,” co-author Kathleen Bainbridge added. “From there, other researchers may form ideas about where to look further for possible causes and ultimately for ways to prevent or treat the condition.”