By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Do you ever detect bad smells that no one else does?

A new study from the National Institutes of Health finds that 1 in 15 or almost seven percent of Americans over the age of forty smell odors that aren’t there.

This was one of the first national studies to try to determine how common the problem is.

It’s called phantom odor perception and the smells that people detect are usually unpleasant ones. The study found it’s more common as we age and more common among women.

When severe, phantom odor perception can affect someone’s quality of life, impacting their appetite, food preferences, and even weight.

The cause is unknown but scientists say it might be caused by overactive odor sensing cells or a problem in the region of the brain that processes odor signals.

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