Date of Conferral

2017

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Public Health

Advisor

Carla Riemersma

Abstract

A disabling condition in old age is poor cognitive function (CF), which affects more than 16 million people in the United States. Research has correlated oxidative stress with poor CF, and antioxidants have been suggested as a means to counteract this impact, although there are inconsistencies in the literature. Guided by the oxidative stress theory of aging, the purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between blood serum antioxidant levels and CF in participants aged 60 and older. This cross-sectional study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001 2002 (n = 291). Correlation studies were performed using Pearson's correlation coefficient. Multiple linear regression was used to determine whether blood serum antioxidant status predicted CF while controlling for age, gender, race, hypertension, smoking status, and Body Mass Index. Results of this study demonstrated that alpha-tocopherol (r = .257), retinyl palmitate (r = .248), trans-lycopene (r = .196), retinyl stearate (r = .136), age (r = -.239; p < .001), and BMI (r = .189; p = .001) were all significantly correlated with CF. After controlling for covariates, higher concentrations of alpha-tocopherol and retinyl palmitate were associated with higher CF (p < .01). The positive social change implications of this study include interventions designed to educate the elderly about the role of antioxidants in delaying or preventing poor CF or to reduce barriers to healthy eating. By implementing interventions that incorporate data from this study, healthcare professionals may be able to reduce the incidence and prevalence of poor CF in the elderly population.

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