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In the largest and longest independent clinical trial set to assess ginkgo biloba’s ability to prevent memory loss, the supplement showed no benefits in preventing or delaying dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Further more, more cases of dementia occurred among participants who were taking ginkgo biloba than among those who were taking a placebo, however the difference was not statistically significant.

The researchers are not hiding their disappointment as they had their hopes high that gingko would actually work.

For the trial, researchers from five academic medical centers in the United States recruited 3,069 community volunteers over the age 75 and older. Although most of the study participants were cognitively normal, 482 had mild cognitive impairment.

About half were given two doses of 120 milligrams of ginkgo biloba extract daily, while the other half were provided with placebo pills. Nobody knew who was receiving which pills. The study participants were followed for a median of 6.1 years and assessed every six months for dementia.

During this time, 523 cases of dementia had been diagnosed. Of these 523, 246, or 16.1 %, were in placebo users while 277, or 17.9%, were ginkgo biloba users.

The researchers’ conclusion is that gingko biloba does not work for elderly people trying to protect themselves from developing dementia.
Further more, the study found that the extract in question might be harmful as more hemorrhagic strokes occurred among ginkgo users and patients with cardiovascular disease who took the supplements also faced an increased dementia risk.

Although disappointing, these are important studies indicating that using ginkgo extract the way it’s sold in CVS or Walgreens is a waste of time and resources.

Annual worldwide sales in the United States are $249 million, according to the study’s authors.

However, gingko biloba does have powerful antioxidant properties and an industry-financed study found that it improves speed of processing in people 60 and older who took it for six weeks. “The thinking is that it helps improve oxygenation and circulation to the brain.”

Other popular over-the-counter supplements such as fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids and resveratrol are being tested in large trials or are under consideration for them. Although trials that assess long-term prevention are expensive — the recent study cost $30 million — they are the only reliable way to test products against Alzheimer’s and other slow-developing diseases.


I am wondering if physical exercise might have been a better way to help prevent or delay dementia and Alzheimer's disease, as the study showed that ginkgo biloba extract had failed to do so, and may in fact be harmful as more hemorrhagic strokes occurred among the ginkgo users and those with cardiovascular disease who took the supplements actually faced an increased dementia risk. This is true testament that one has to use caution in relying too much on supplements to prevent or cure diseases.