Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Ronald G. Munger


Ronald G. Munger


Heidi Wengreen


Kory Hintz


Chris Corcoran


Carrie Durward


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia in the elderly, accounting for 60 to 80% of all dementia cases. It affects 5.2 million Americans and 44 million worldwide. This project examines the association between dietary patterns, erythrocyte membrane fatty acids concentration, and AD-related genes in systemic inflammation as indicated by serum C-reactive protein (CRP). All studies performed in this project used the data collected in the Cache County Memory Study (CCMS).

Higher levels of accordance with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and Mediterranean dietary (MED) patterns were associated with consistently lower levels of CRP in elderly men and women. Interestingly, this association appeared stronger among overweight and obese participants when compared with normal weight participants. These results emphasize that the DASH and Mediterranean diets may play an important role in reducing systemic inflammation, which may lower AD risk, especially among overweight and obese persons.

A high erythrocyte fatty acid concentration of palmitoleic acid, and nervonic acids, both monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), dihomo-y-linolenic acid (DGLA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA-6), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), all polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), were similarly associated with increased risk of CRP elevation. Margaric acid, stearic acid, and arachidic acid, all saturated fatty acids (SFAs), were associated with a reduced risk of elevated CRP. These associations was stronger among women than men.

Several AD-related genes were found to influence risk for having CRP elevation. APOE-epsilon alleles were associated with CRP levels among elderly men and women. A major alleles of APOE (C/C) rs439401 and TOMM40 (A/A) rs157580, and minor alleles of MMP8 (T/T) rs1892886, CR1 (A/A) rs6656401, CR1 (A/A) rs3818361, and CR1 (A/A) rs4844609 lowered the risk of elevated CRP among elderly men. These results emphasize the need to consider gene-environment interactions when searching for genes influencing AD risk.

With the increased prevalence of AD and the association of systemic inflammation, the results of this dissertation may help identify factors important to AD etiology and, in turn, provide valuable targets for preventive intervention to improve people’s quality of life and nutritional well-being.