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Sullivan Nutrition Assessment Laboratory

Dr. 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

Dr. 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.

Current Studies

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. You will benefit from the study by receiving complementary food items, one-on-on instruction from a registered dietitian, fun cooking demonstrations, and compensation for study visits. You may be eligible for the study if you meet the following criteria: age 65 or older; not taking the prescription drug Warfarin; no diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease; no diagnosis of type 1 diabetes or recent cardiac event; and no tree nut or fish allergy (not including shellfish).

For more information on how to join:

Please contact the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at 913-588-0555, Option 1.

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.

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 or


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Portrait of Debra SullivanLab Director

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

School of Health Professions

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