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Sullivan Nutrition Assessment Laboratory

Debra Sullivan's research focuses on the measurement of dietary intake and behavior modification interventions in a variety of settings and across the lifespan.

Older couple cooking together

Research Focus Areas

Sullivan's early research focused on prevention of obesity in children as well as weight management in adults. She continues her weight management investigations but has expanded to research to other areas. She is currently exploring how dietary intake influences the aging brain. Her research trials continue in obesity and aging.

Portrait of Debra SullivanLab Director

Debra K. Sullivan, Ph.D., RD
Chair, Department of Dietetics and Nutrition
Midwest Dairy Council Professor in Clinical Nutrition


Current Studies

Blueberry and Brain Health Study

This study is currently enrolling healthy participants aged 65-89 who are interested in joining a study to determine how blueberries affect brain health. Researchers think there may be a relationship between blueberry intake and brain health.

To qualify, female or male subjects must be aged 65-89, in good general health, with no diagnosis of diabetes or recent cardiac event. You must not have an allergy to blueberries and not currently eating blueberries regularly.

Participation in this study will involve four in-person study visits to KU Medical Center to include measurements of weight, height, waist circumference, body composition, skin carotenoid level and blood pressure. You will also complete a food record and questionnaires.

For a period of three months, you will be asked to consume one serving of blueberries or a placebo powder daily. You also must be comfortable and willing to undergo two MRI scans.

Participants who qualify and complete this study will be paid for their time.

For more information on how to join: Please contact Caitlin at 913-588-6254 (711 TTY) or

Therapeutic Diets for Alzheimer’s Disease (TDAD)

The TDAD study is comparing the impact of two diets in individuals with mild Alzheimer’s Disease. The first is a ketogenic diet which is high fat, low carbohydrate, and moderate protein. The second is the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet better known as a heart-healthy diet. The participants follow the diet for 12 weeks and track certain measurements depending on which diet they follow. They are also given supplements and meet regularly with the study dietitian. Measurements taken at study visits include vital signs, phlebotomy, anthropometrics, clinician assessment, cognitive assessment, surveys, skin carotenoid content, and brain scans. Individuals are eligible if they are aged 50-90 years old, English speaking, are community dwelling, have no recent history of cancer or cardiac events, no recent history of kidney stones, do not have insulin-dependent diabetes, and do not have implants that disallow brain scans.

For more information on how to join: Please contact Jessica Keller at or call the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at 913-588-0555, Option 1 (711 TTY).

Egg Study

The Egg study is looking at the relationship between whole egg consumption and healthy brain aging. Choline, a nutrient rich in eggs, is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is diminished in those with Alzheimer’s Disease. We want to see if there is a relationship between higher egg consumption and higher brain choline status as measured by an MRI. Also, we aim to see if higher brain choline status leads to higher scores on a cognitive test. Participation in the study includes an MRI brain scan, anthropometric measurements, a brief cognitive assessment, and a few surveys over two study visits at Hoglund Brain Imaging Center. Participants will be compensated for their time. Individuals are eligible if they are aged 60-80, generally healthy, do not have implants that disallow MRI brain scans, do not have diabetes, and do not drink more than 3 alcoholic drinks per day or 18 drinks per week.

For more information on how to join: Please contact Aaron Smith at 913-229-5935 (711 TTY) or

Nutrition Interventions for Cognitive Enhancement (NICE Study)

The NICE Study is for older adults who are willing to follow either a Mediterranean or low-fat eating pattern for one year. The study is looking at the benefits of these eating patterns on brain health. Throughout the study there are nutrition classes/food demonstrations, phone calls from a registered dietitian, and study visits that include height, weight, veggie meter, blood draws, food records, cognitive testing, surveys, and an MRI.

Note: this study is not recruiting participants at this time.

For more information: Please contact the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at 913-588-0555, Option 1 (711 TTY).

School of Health Professions

Dietetics and Nutrition
KU Medical Center
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Mailstop 4013
Kansas City, KS 66160
913-588-5355 • 711 TTY