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Ginkgo Biloba Does Not Reduce Alzheimer’s Disease Risk According To New Study

November 19, 2008

Adapted from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

The medicinal herb Ginkgo biloba does not reduce the risk of dementia or Alzheimer's disease development in either the healthy elderly or those with mild cognitive impairment, according to a large multicenter trial led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Findings from the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) Study, which is the first to have the necessary participant numbers and monitoring years to enable measurement of Ginkgo biloba's effectiveness and safety profile in dementia prevention, were published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Despite early indications that Ginkgo biloba has antioxidant and other properties that might preserve memory, this trial shows that, in fact, it has no impact on development of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease," said Steven T. DeKosky, M.D., principal investigator of the multi-center trial.

Ginkgo biloba didn't affect the rate of coronary heart disease or stroke, either, the researchers found.

It's possible that an effect would have been observed, if the study had gone on longer, because it takes many years to progress from initial brain changes to clinical dementia, Dr. DeKosky noted. Therefore, the research team intends to conduct a follow-up analysis of brain function and structure in a subset of participants using magnetic resonance imaging.

In the study, which was conducted at five medical centers between 2000 and 2008, 3,069 people age 75 or older who had no, or mild, cognitive impairment were randomly assigned to take twice-daily doses of either 120 milligrams of Ginkgo biloba extract or a placebo. They were reassessed every six months for dementia using several well-established mental status tests. If changes were found that exceeded the expected "normal" changes in aging, a more extensive evaluation, including neuroimaging, was performed.

The researchers found no statistical difference in dementia or Alzheimer's disease rates between the groups. Among those taking Ginkgo biloba, 277 developed dementia. Among those in the placebo group, 246 developed dementia. Mortality rates also were similar.

"Studies of this magnitude are never possible without the selflessness of dedicated study participants. They continue to amaze us with their dedication to help find ways to prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. DeKosky.

A similarly-sized trial assessing the effectiveness of Ginkgo biloba is underway in Europe.

View all news updates for Alzheimer's disease


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Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

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