Objective: The hypothesis tested was that patients with severe eating disorders would demonstrate olfactory identification deficits as a result of zinc deficiency or malnutrition.
Method: The University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) was administered to 27 hospitalized female patients with anorexia nervosa and 50 normal control female subjects. For a subgroup of patients, serum zinc levels and body mass indices were obtained at pre- and post-nutritional repletion phases.
Results: UPSIT scores for patients with eating disorders were equivalent to normal control subjects in spite of the fact that the patients were nutritionally compromised as determined by body mass index. Serum zinc levels were not significantly different at pre- and post-nutritional repletion.
Conclusions: In contrast to patients with schizophrenia, patients with severe eating disorders have intact olfactory function. This finding suggests that transient metabolic or nutritional disturbances alone cannot account for previously reported olfactory deficits.