Understand the Relation Between Ginkgo Biloba and Memory

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Brain HealthWe recently had a reader write in and ask us our opinion on Ginkgo Biloba, a supplement not currently in the Cooper Complete line.

Americans spend more than 100 million dollars annually on Ginkgo Biloba supplements. Ginkgo is most commonly taken by older adults worried about memory loss issues. While consumers typically believe that ginkgo will minimize the impact of dementia or Alzheimer’s, the research is pretty inconsistent and inconclusive.

The Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 3,069 participants aged 72 to 96 years, was conducted in 6 academic medical centers across the US between 2000 and 2008, with the average participant followed for 6.1 years. Over the five year period, half the group received twice-daily doses of 120 mg extract of Ginkgo, while the other half received a placebo. Participants took the Modified Mini-Mental State examination and Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale test every six months until 2004, and then annually along with 10 other neuropsychological tests. Unfortunately, the changes in cognition of the Ginkgo and placebo groups were about the same, leading researchers to conclude that 120 mg Ginkgo twice daily was not effective in reducing all-cause dementia or development of Alzheimer’s disease. For this reason, taking Ginkgo as a “preventative” doesn’t seem to be helpful.

The research to date on the potential impact of Ginkgo on Alzheimer’s (versus general cognitive decline) has primarily been in small studies. One of the larger trials was back in 1997 when researchers enrolled more than 300 participants with Alzheimer’s disease or non-Alzheimer’s dementia. Half the group took 40 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract three times daily for a year, while the control group took a placebo. The resulted showed significant, but not completely consistent improvements in the group that received the Ginkgo biloba. In 2007, another study followed 400 people for 22 weeks. In this study, half the group received 80 mg of Ginkgo biloba 3 times daily, and the results indicated that Ginkgo was significantly superior to the placebo. We need significantly more research, with higher numbers of participants and much longer study times, to determine if Ginkgo is worth the expense of consuming and the risk of increased bleeding.

Ginkgo is available in leaf, leaf extract, and seed formulations. Ginkgo leaf exact is the most commonly used form in studies. Although ginkgo seeds were traditionally used in China, the fresh seeds are toxic and potentially deadly. Ginkgo supplements are generally considered safe, but since ginkgo may increase the risk of bleeding, anyone taking anti-coagulants or with known clotting disorders should not take Ginkgo too. Also, Ginkgo should be discontinued two- to three weeks prior to many surgical and dental procedures, due to the increased risk of bleeding.

When ConsumerLab reviewed ginkgo product in 1999, they found that nearly 25 percent of the 30 brands tested had issues. When they tested Ginkgo products again in 2003, they found that seven of the nine ginkgo products tested lacked adequate levels of certain marker compounds. According to ConsumerLab, a lot of the Ginkgo on the market seems to be adulterated or “spiked” with other compounds.

While the conventional “man-on-the-street” opinion tends to be that Ginkgo biloba is beneficial in slowing or reducing cognitive decline, the research just doesn’t conclusively give the same results.

To purchase Cooper Complete supplements, visit the Cooper Store.

Ginkgo biloba for Prevention of Dementia

Ginkgo biloba for Preventing Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

Effects of Ginkgo biloba in dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis

Thinking about Ginkgo?

Article provided by Cooper Complete team.

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