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Q: Sensitivity to odors ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Sensitivity to odors
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: jim94301-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 04 May 2002 15:31 PDT
Expires: 11 May 2002 15:31 PDT
Question ID: 13159
Is there any relation known between
- extreme sensitivity to certain smells(e.g., urine), and
- temporary zinc deficiency and/or kidney dysfunction
Subject: Re: Sensitivity to odors
Answered By: drdavid-ga on 08 May 2002 16:51 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
There does not appear to be any literature that directly supports any
link between extreme sensitivity to certain smells and temporary zinc
deficiency and/or kidney dysfunction. However, the situation is
complex, and it is possible that there is an indirect link.

The literature on zinc deficiency suggests that it is not known to be
a cause of any increased sensitivity to smells. In fact, the opposite
is generally observed! There is a very thorough review (with 239
references) of what is known about zinc nutritional needs, sources,
factors that affect zinc absorption, and the symptoms of deficiency:

THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF ZINC DEFICIENCY, A review from the literature
by Tuula E. Tuormaa for FORESIGHT, the Association for the Promotion
of Preconceptual Care [first published in: Journal of Orthomolecular
Medicine, 10 (3 & 4): 149-164, (1995)]

 Zinc is known to alter taste and smell and is thought to be a factor
in some cases of anorexia and bulimarexia. The observation is that a
zinc deficiency suppresses taste and smell and leads to loss of
appetite. The reason is that "zinc is essential for the taste
perception is because taste is mediated through a salivary
zinc-dependent polypeptide termed gustin, therefore low salivary zinc
levels invariably leads to a reduction of taste." Zinc deficiencies
are generally short-term, and symptoms can be quickly relieved by
restoring adequate zinc intake and absorption.

A relation between kidney dysfunction and an altered sense of smell is
harder to pin down. There is no direct link between kidney function
and smell, but problems with both can indeed be symptoms of the same
underlying disease. Again, the more typical situation is that a _loss_
of smell and loss of kidney function would occur together. The
Materials Safety Data Sheet for cadmium, for example reports that both
are symptoms of cadmium poisoning:

Another suggestion of a correlation can be found in the statement,
"hepatic systemic dysfunction (particularly of the liver or kidneys)
is sometimes involved in sensory system problems.  Torpid liver, low
(cold) or high hepatic circulation, or kidney disease can contribute
to impaired vision, hearing, taste or smell.  Sometimes systemic
toxicity is the link between hepatic system problems and sensory
system dysfunction." Here again, the suggestion is that the common
version of the problem is a loss of smell, and that it may be
correlated with an underlying toxicity problem of some sort causing
both sets of symptoms. (From The Meridian Institute's "Explanation of
CCSI Scale Scores" at )

Of course, it is also possible that a person who thinks his urine
smells odd is not having a problem with his sense of smell! Unusual
urine smells can be a symptom of kidney problems:

"Health Musings (Paper 10D,  Kidney and Bladder Problems)," by
Clifford S. Garner, Ph.D.

The most well-known correlations with "hyperolfaction" (enhanced sense
of smell) have to do with the hormonal changes associated with
pregnancy. See, for example,

"Theories on HG [hyperemesis gravidarum (pernicious vomiting of

You may also wish to consult the pages of The Taste and Smell Clinic
of Washington DC:

This site has extensive information about the problems of impaired and
altered taste and smell, possible causes, diagnostic methods and
available treatments. The problem is actually very common, in that it
is estimated that approximately 7% of the US population suffers from
taste and smell problems of one sort or another. I was not able to
find any obvious match there to the specific symptoms you describe,
but perhaps you will find some other information there which helps you
diagnose the cause of the extreme sensitivity to certain smells in
your particular case. You may need to enlist the assistance of a
specialist such as those at The Taste and Smell Clinic to come up with
a definitive diagnosis and treatment. There are a great many specific
diseases and anatomical and neurological abnormalities which can cause
an altered sense of smell, and a definitive diagnosis may require
extensive testing.

Good luck!

Google searches:

zinc deficiency smell

kidney dysfunction symptoms smell

jim94301-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
This seems to be a careful survey of what's there on the net.
Better than I did searching myself, but not quite the definitive
answer I had hoped someone would have.

Subject: Re: Sensitivity to odors
From: robertskelton-ga on 04 May 2002 16:48 PDT
I found some mentions of relationships between dysosmia (altered
perception of smell) and zinc, but nothing regarding temporary zinc
deficiency, nor kidneys:

In 103 patients with diminished or disorted taste perception
(hypogeusia, dysgeusia) and diminished or disorted smell perception
(hyposmia, dysosmia) serum-zinc concentrations were significantly
lower than in controls; the symptoms were alleviated by zinc
supplements given by mouth - per J.Am. med. Ass. 1974,228,1669.

taken from

Zinc supplements, which can be purchased without a prescription, are
claimed to speed recovery, especially from taste disorders that follow
a bout of the flu. The effect, however, has not been scientifically

taken from

We previously described a disorder in 18 patients with decreased
parotid saliva gustin/carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI secretion associated
with loss of taste (hypogeusia) and smell (hyposmia) and distorted
taste (dysgeusia) and smell (dysosmia). Because gustin/CAVI is a
zinc-dependent enzyme we instituted a study of treatment with
exogenous zinc to attempt to stimulate synthesis/secretion of
gustin/CAVI and thereby attempt to correct the symptoms of this
disorder....Zinc treatment is effective in patients in whom this trace
metal increases synthesis/secretion of gustin/CAVI and ineffective in
those in whom it does not.

taken from

Google keywords:
dysosmia kidney
dysosmia zinc

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