The journal of nutrition, health & aging

, Volume 21, Issue 9, pp 1010–1015 | Cite as

Changes of olfactory performance during the process of aging – Psychophysical testing and its relevance in the fight against malnutrition

  • W. GunzerEmail author



Olfactory performance plays a vital role in several aspects of everyday life. A decrease in olfactory function leading to reduced appetite and inadequate food intake could contribute to higher risk of malnutrition and has a significant impact on quality of life. Early detection of olfactory impairment may help to maintain normal, or — through early training — to improve olfactory function and could thus contribute to the prevention of malnutrition. This review summarizes recent findings on the association between decreased olfactory performance in older adults, its implication for overall health and discusses issues regarding the assessment of olfactory performance in older people.


A non-systematic literature search using databases (PubMed, ScienceDirect, Google Scholar) was conducted up to March 2016 to review recent findings on the topics of olfactory impairment, age, malnutrition and issues in psychophysical testing.


Although the association of olfactory impairment and malnutrition is widely accepted strong evidence is scarce. This could be because existing psychophysiological olfactory performance tests are not suitable and inefficient for older adults or people with cognitive impairment due to their required time and concentration. Since prevalence of olfactory impairment remains poorly documented in European regions and varies from 13.9% to >60% depending on age and due to considerable methodological diversity in studies there is need to develop rapid and efficient screening tools which are suitable for this target group.


Due to numerous causes and health consequences of olfactory impairment in older people, early detection of olfactory malfunction by rapid, inexpensive but valid tests, which could be used by geriatricians and other healthcare professionals, might be useful in patient counselling by identifying individuals at nutritional risk.

Key words

Olfactory impairment neurodegenerative disease olfactory assessment older adults malnutrition 


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Copyright information

© Serdi and Springer-Verlag France 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FH JOANNEUM University of Applied Sciences, Department of Health Studies, Insitute of Dietetics and NutritionGrazAustria

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