Gingko Biloba: effective for seniors?

A major new study on the effectiveness of Gingko Biloba in reducing cognitive loss for seniors showed it was not effective. The January 6, 2010 online edition of the natural foods merchandiser [1] reported the results of the study published in the Journal of American Medicine. As with many mainstream studies, this appears to be aimed at finding alternative therapies ineffective.

The six year study compared the effects of Gingko to that of a placebo in seniors aged 72-96. Although a relatively long study with a large sample size of 3.096 individuals, Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the Austin, Texas-based American Botanical Council, finds many “significant limitations” of the study.

He points out that 40% of participants dropped out before finishing the trial, although their incomplete data was included in the overall findings. The study was intended to study the prevention of dementia, yet the data was used to draw conclusions about the decline in cognition. “Certain cognitive parameters were not monitored until several years after the trial began. The age of the subjects was quite advanced, at an average of 79 years at the beginning of the trial. It is unknown whether a younger group of ginkgo users would have been more responsive.”

Blumenthal said in a press release to ABC that ginkgo has a “vast body of pharmacological and clinical research supporting numerous health benefits…particularly for improving various symptoms and conditions associated with declining cognitive performance and poor circulation.”

Daniel Frabricant, Ph.D., vice president for scientific and relative affairs at the Natural Products Association stated, "When one considers that age related cognitive decline may initiate in healthy adults as early as their 30s, it would seem that if the authors were indeed serious about investigating prevention as a secondary outcome, they would have selected a population that was situated closer to the onset of cognitive decline instead of one where its effects most likely have already taken hold."

Of note is that the new trial shows the overall safety of ginkgo.

Thanks for reading.

Mark Fergusson