Honey, what should we do with the Ginkgo biloba?
How many people are asking that question after scientists at the University of Virginia proved the popular plant supplement does not reduce the risk of developing dementia of any kind nor Alzheimer’s disease specifically.
Subgroup analyses of younger patients, older patients, both sexes and those with all degrees of baseline cognitive impairment all came up dry, and there was no impact on overall mortality.
Pretty much, the stuff didn’t work.
Steven T. DeKosky and colleagues randomized 3,069 community-dwelling people who were at least 75 years of age to receive either 120 mg Ginkgo twice a day or a placebo. 482 study participants had mildly impaired cognition at study onset. Participants were evaluated twice yearly during the 6-year study.
The results were just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Annual US sales of Ginkgo products are $250 million, driven by some bench research showing neuroprotective effects that have been attributed to flavonoids contained in Ginkgo, an animal study showing mild protective effects during a stroke, and good old-fashioned hope that it could improve or at least maintain memory.
The present study did not exclude the possibilities that starting the extract at a younger age or continuing it longer than 6 years might have beneficial effects, though these seem unlikely.
A second large, randomized trial of Ginkgo biloba is nearing completion. We’ll try to remember to look for it.