Olfactory Smell Dysfunction in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

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The increasing global prevalence of diabetes mellitus presents a significant challenge to healthcare systems today. Although diabetic retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy are well-established complications of diabetes, there is a paucity of research examining the impact of dysglycaemia on the olfactory system. Olfaction is an important sense, playing a role in the safety, nutrition and quality of life of an individual, but its importance is often overlooked when compared with the other senses.
As with all our senses, our sense of smell can worsen with age. An estimated 24 percent of older adults in the U.S. are said to have smell dysfunction, although the percentage of those who find it a daily interference is much lower.

A decreased sense of smell can have dangerous consequences. However, as it can inhibit the ability to detect the presence of olfactory indicators of danger including the smell of smoke. New research has shown that insulin resistance, caused by diabetes mellitus, is also related to the development of smell dysfunction.
It’s not often that sense of smell is formally evaluated the way hearing and sight is as we age. The research behind the decrease in the sense of smell is also limited, meaning that the full scope of how smell relates to certain degenerative diseases is unknown.

The researchers of this study used the data of participants over age 50, collected over two years of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) assessment of smell, to determine how the sense of smell related to certain diabetes mellitus (DM) biological markers. The markers measured included fasting blood glucose, glycohemoglobin, serum insulin, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin sensitivity (HOMA-IR).

The results showed that there was an increased risk of smell dysfunction in participants with the DM markers of fasting blood glucose and HOMA-IR quintiles. The data suggested that insulin resistance may be a mechanism for the development of smell impairment with age. The other markers measured did not appear to be connected with the reduction in the ability to smell.

The researchers state that further research will be required to confirm the connection between DM-related insulin resistance and olfactory dysfunction, but the correlation is clear in the results of their data examination

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