By Shawn Thomas

CHICAGO (CBS St. Louis) — Your nose may be more important in telling your future than anything else.

According to a new study out of the University of Chicago, a fading sense of smell in older Americans may be the biggest predictor of impending death, Tech Times reports.

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In the study, 3,000 older Americans were asked to detect odors such as peppermint, oranges, rose or leather.

Within five years of the original survey, 39 percent of the participants who were unable to detect the smells died compared to the 19 percent with moderate senses of smell and 10 percent of intact senses of smell.

“We were pretty surprised it was such a strong predictor,” says study leader Dr. Jayant Pinto, a University of Chicago specialist in nasal disorders.

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According to researchers, sense of smell is a better predictor of approaching death than any other major disease such as heart or lung disease.

“It doesn’t directly cause death, but it is a harbinger, an early warning system that shows damage may have been done,” Pinto went on to say.

The reason for this, according to the researchers, could be that a declining sense of smell is a result of exposure to pollution, toxins and disease as well as evidence that the body is losing its ability to regenerate cells.

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The study is published in the journal PLOS One.