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PJ Online | News: Ginkgo biloba fails to improve memory

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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 269 No 7212 p241
24 August 2002

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Ginkgo biloba fails to improve memory

GINKGO biloba does not improve memory or cognitive function in healthy elderly people, according to new research.

Professor Paul Solomon, of the memory clinic, Southwestern Vermont Medical Centre, Bennington, Vermont, and colleagues, say that despite claims made by manufacturers of ginkgo products in the United States, they were unable to show any cognitive benefits (JAMA 2002;288:835).

"As with any over-the-counter substance, people taking ginkgo, or thinking of taking it ... owe it to themselves to inform that decision with knowledge of scientific studies.

"They also need to consider cost and possible side effects, especially if taken with medication or other substances," Professor Solomon said.

The researchers assessed 230 healthy volunteers aged over 60 years using neuropsychological tests of verbal and nonverbal learning and memory, attention and concentration, and expressive language. The volunteers were then randomised to receive either ginkgo (40mg three times each day) or matching placebo in a double-blind fashion.

After six weeks, participants were tested again. Participants and their families also completed questionnaires to assess subjective impressions of their memory. The researchers found that there were no significant differences between those taking ginkgo and those taking placebo on any of the objective or subjective measures.

Commenting on the study, Professor Steven Ferris, Friedman professor for Alzheimer's disease at New York University School of Medicine, said: "It is critically important that claims of effectiveness of all treatments, including natural products, be supported by scientifically valid results from well controlled clinical trials.

"This important, well conducted clinical trial clearly calls into question previously unsubstantiated claims that Ginkgo biloba improves mental function in older people."

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