Ginkgo to prevent Alzheimer s? Fuggedaboutit!

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Ginkgo biloba, a Chinese herb, has been touted by some as a miracle herb that has the potential to boost mental agility, sharpen memory, and prevent Alzheimer s disease. Yet new research shows that it may actually do nothing of the sort.

The study, published yesterday in The Lancet Neurology, found that people who took twice-daily doses of ginkgo were no less likely to develop Alzheimer s than those given a placebo. Led by Dr. Bruno Vellas of the Hospital Casselardit in France, the trial involved 2,854 people aged 70 or older who had already visited a doctor with concerns about their memory. Patients were given either ginkgo biloba extract or a dummy pill, after which researchers analyzed patients memory, cognitive function, and dementia status. At the five-year follow-up, 4 percent of the ginkgo group was diagnosed with probable Alzheimer s disease, compared to 5 percent in the placebo group a difference that is neither statistically nor clinically significant.

Alzheimer s disease affects an estimated 18 million people worldwide, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. Given the sufficient debunking of this herbal remedy, I hope that research geared toward more scientific preventive therapies will receive the urgent attention it so desperately needs.