ANTIAGEING_AF2 - page 11

Monographic special issue:
Agro FOOD Industry Hi Tech
- vol. 28(2) - March/April 2017
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that losing the sense of smell with age is not a fatality. In fact,
quite a large sample of respondents was still able to perceive
the odours almost as well as younger people.
What could explain such a large inter-individual variability
among the elderly population, this variability being much
larger than the one that can be observed in a younger
population? Figure 1 displays a scheme of the different
factors liable to have an impact on olfactory capacities in
the elderly. Obviously, a first source of variability could be
related to genetic factors. Even in adulthood, some people
perceived better the odours than others because of different
olfactory receptor equipment. However, genetic inheritance
cannot entirely account for variation in the ability to smell in
the elderly. A second source of variability stems from the past.
Exposure to environmental pollutants (exposure to metals, dust,
organic compounds, etc.) in a professional context, current
smoking as well as history of nasal problems, head trauma,
strokes and endocrine disorders may contribute to a decline
in odour sensitivity (12-14). Aside from these factors, ageing
takes a toll on biological tissues and physiological functions.
Ageing is accompanied by the drying of the olfactory
mucosa, a slower turn-over of sensory cells, a decrease in the
speed of the nervous signal (15). Most importantly, ageing is
associated with an increase of pathological events, which in
turn contributes to the decline of olfactory perception, either
directly – for instance, neuropathological diseases are known
to have an impact on olfactory perception (14, 16-19), or
indirectly, through the consumption of drugs – in fact, many
medications are known to affect smell perception (19-21).
These results imply that decline in odour perception may
not be inevitable to the aging individual and that factors
secondary to aging, such as poor health status or cognitive
decline, may contribute to deficits in odour detectability
beyond the age effect per se (11, 22, 23).
To conclude, ageing takes a toll on olfaction, but this toll is by no
means uniform. It depends on older individuals, nature of odorants
and ways to measure olfactory abilities. Furthermore, if ageing
may lead to a decline in the ability to perceive subtle fragrances,
most of the elderly people remain able to perceived odours at a
medium intensity. Consequently, as odours bear the “savour of
life” in their tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, it is
utterly important to provide our elders with a fragrant world.
Figure 1.
Representation of the different factors liable to have
an impact on olfactory capacities in the elderly.
1...,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,...36
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