Taking the supplement ginkgo biloba does not have any benefits in preventing cognitive decline, says a new study.
The three year long study, led by Hiroko Dodge, PhD, of the Department of Public Health and Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University in Corvallis, involved 118 people age 85 and older with
no memory problems.
Amongst those, half of the participants took ginkgo biloba extract three times a day and half took a placebo. 21 people developed
mild memory problems or questionable dementia during the study: 14 of those took the placebo and seven took the ginkgo extract.
Though ginkgo seemed to reap positive results, the difference between those who took gingko versus the placebo was not statistically significant.
Surprisingly, when the researchers looked at the data at the end of the trial, they found that people who reliably took the supplement had a 68 pct lower risk of developing mild memory problems than those who took the placebo, taking into account whether people followed directions in taking the study pills.
However, if this difference is real or just a chance occurrence was not clear without further study.
In fact being on the safer side, the study also found that people taking ginkgo biloba were more prone to have a stroke or transient
ischemic attack, or mini stroke. Seven people taking ginkgo had strokes, while none of those taking placebo did.
"Ginkgo has been reported to cause bleeding-related complications, but the strokes in this case were due to blood clots, not excessive bleeding, and were generally not severe. These results need to be
clarified with larger studies, but the findings are interesting because ginkgo biloba is already widely used, readily available, and relatively inexpensive," said Dodge.
He added: "One of the most pressing public health problems facing our society is the rapidly growing number of people who, due to
their age alone, are at high risk of developing dementia. The potential to delay or prevent this is of great importance. Further studies are needed to determine whether gingko biloba has any benefits in preventing cognitive decline and whether it is safe."
Dodge indicated that this is the first randomized, controlled trial of prevention of dementia in people age 85 and older.
The study is published in the recent online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.