Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and catalase, which are the three main enzymes involved in cellular protection against damage due to oxygen-derived free radicals have been assayed in plasma and erythrocytes obtained from subjects with dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) and from controls. Blood samples were obtained from 25 patients with DAT and from age-matched subjects without diagnoses of neurological disease (non-DAT), as well as from younger individuals (reference group). Using appropriate statistical procedures, the three enzyme activities measured in blood of the elderly were decreased if compared to the younger reference group. Moreover, a significant increase in erythrocyte Cu/Zn SOD and catalase activities of DAT patients was observed compared to the non-DAT group. These results are discussed taking the free radical theory of aging into consideration.