Study: Forget Ginkgo for Slowing Memory Loss

By Andrew Moseman | December 31, 2009 7:00 am

GinkgoThis week, a eight-year double-blind study of the nutritional supplement ginkgo biloba finally reached the pages of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Many health food stores sell ginkgo supplements to people who are hoping to improve their wits and memory, and particularly to elderly people worried about cognitive decline and dementia. But the conclusion by lead researcher Steven DeKosky? Save your money.

In the GEM [Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory] study, participants aged 72-96 years with little or no cognitive impairment were recruited from four communities in the eastern United States and received either a twice-daily dose of 120-milligrams of extract of G biloba or an identical-looking placebo [AFP]. For the more than 3,000 study participants, researchers found no difference in age-related cognitive decline—including the incidence of dementia or Alzheimer’s—between ginkgo takers and placebo takers.

What about younger people taking ginkgo? The findings don’t necessarily apply to acute use of the extract — or to younger patients who are attempting to prevent disease many years in the future. Yet DeKosky noted that “there’s nothing about antioxidants that would make you think they’d help in the short-term” [ABC News].

For more, check out this post by Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons / darkone

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Jumblepudding

    I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect, but I remember taking ginkgo and feeling a slight throbbing in my head. I always attributed this to increased blood flow to my brain, and really noticed no improvement in my fairly normal cognition. I hope I wasn’t causing harm to myself, if I wasn’t doing any good.

  • Matt

    Headaches are caused by blood vessels in the scalp. You don’t have nerves in your brain, thus you couldn’t feel any increase in blood flow.

  • krissy

    Regardless Ginkgo is a living miracle. It is the only tree of its type to survive the last ice age, and it was only thanks to the tender love of monks that it made it. It is a living fossil.

  • Christina Viering

    What will I do now? OOps, don’t remember.

  • Jonathan

    I bought some ginko but I don’t remember where I put it. Apparently I’m going to have to take some other memory supplement in order to remember where the ginko is.

  • fantom4

    It is a real shame that the FDA does not evaluate supplements. I think the many people would be amazed by the lack of TRUE scientific evidence to support the claims of these snake oil salesmen. Until the FDA starts to do double blind studies of these supplements, you are better off saving your money and doing some real exercise instead. These companies are out for nothing but your money and use false scientific data to support these claims. Get real people, a simple pill with vitamins is not going to give you an erection nor will it unclog your arteries.

    Read the true medical literature.

  • Rene Williams

    The positive aspect of this study is that at least alternative medicines are being explored. Ginko was a bust but many are found to be helpful at a minimum. Others are found to be very useful such as Paclitaxel which was isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew tree and is now sold as Taxol. It is used for treating breast cancer.


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