Scientists from Tel Aviv University have linked depression to a biological mechanism that affects the olfactory glands. It might explain, they believe, why some women wear too much perfume without realizing it.
"Our findings suggest that women who are depressed are also losing their sense of smell, and may overcompensate by using more perfume," explains researcher Yehuda Shoenfeld. "We also believe that depression has biological roots and may be an immune system response to certain physiological cues." Shoenfeld draws his conclusions from lifetime research on autoimmune diseases, focusing on conditions such as lupus, arthritis and rheumatism.
Scientists today widely accept the fact that people with Alzheimer's disease lose their sense of smell. Shoenfeld's research is the first that links depression to smell in lupus patients, however. The implications are wide and can be applied to the general population, he says. "People who are depressed seem to respond well to aromatherapy. Certain smells seem to help them overcome the effects of the biological factors, suggesting that depression may have a biological cause."
Controversially, Shoenfeld believes that science is able to show that aromatherapy might not be just for quacks. "After all, some of these remedies have been used since the time of the Egyptians to treat organic diseases," he notes, suggesting that a standardized "smell test" could be used by doctors to help diagnose depression as well as autoimmune diseases.
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Source: Tel Aviv University