Ginkgo Biloba Fails Again

More like Ginkgo Bilo-BUST
More like Ginkgo Bilo-BUST

It’s been taken as a mental health supplement for hundreds of years, and is also said to benefit blood flow, and combat free radicals. Yet according to a paper recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, ginkgo biloba had no discernible affect on the mental acuity of people as they aged. This comes on the heels of a 2008 study by the same team that showed that ginkgo had no affect on Alzheimer’s or dementia. The JAMA report is a blow to the reputation of the plant and could prove potentially damaging to suppliers of the supplement who sell over $100 million in the US alone. For those looking to boost their mental agility, or to simply keep it strong as they age, it looks like ginkgo biloba is no longer a good option.

The study was run by Dr. Steven DeKosky of the University of Virginia. 3000 people aged 72 to 96 were tracked for an average of six years. Half took 120mg of ginkgo per day while the other half received a placebo. There was no measured difference in attention, memory, or cognitive capability. DeKosky’s research is part of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Institute for Aging. While there have been other studies suggesting the myriad efficacies of gingko, DeKosky’s study is much larger and carries the approval of JAMA. As disappointing as this news may be for gingko proponents, it’s undoubtedly beneficial to those of us trying to maintain our mental health.

This is but one of several large scale studies looking to finally prove (or disprove) the perceived benefits of all kinds of supplements, including vitamin D and fish oil. It’s unfortunate that ginkgo isn’t a pill you can take to get smarter, but in the long run we should be happy that we know it’s affects on aging sooner rather than later. And gingko fans don’t have to lose heart completely. There are undoubtedly going to be more studies to see if biloba can add mental acuity at earlier ages, and if there are any other possible effects from the miracle plant. Better luck next time, Ginkgo Biloba.

[photo credit: WikiCommons]

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