Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been proposed to be an inflammatory disorder. In a recent study, markedly elevated levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with advanced AD suggested a potential predictive value of this cytokine in patients with AD. In the present prospective study, we tested the hypothesis that the levels of TGF-beta in serum would be increased in patients with AD and could thereby serve as a diagnostic marker. We found that serum TGF-beta levels but not proinflammatory cytokine levels were significantly (P < 0.05) elevated in patients with AD (n = 22) in comparison with the levels in their healthy spousal controls. Also, serum TGF-beta levels were positively correlated (r = 0.45; P < 0.05) with disease severity. Nevertheless, the elevation in serum TGF-beta levels in patients with Ad was modest, and considerable overlap with the control values suggests that the diagnostic usefulness of this cytokine for AD is limited.