Health Team

Study: Ginkgo biloba won't prevent Alzheimer's

Posted November 18, 2008 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2008 7:03 p.m. EST

Ginkgo biloba is an herbal supplement that many people take to help improve their memories.

Researchers wanted to know if it could also help prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly. The answer: no.

Betty Haughin was married to her husband, Ken Haughin, for 58 years before he died four years ago. The last year of Ken Haughin’s life was tough as Alzheimer's disease took its toll, she said.

Betty Haughin volunteered for a first-of-its-kind research study to see if Ginkgo biloba could help prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Participants in the study took 240 milligrams of Ginkgo biloba or placebo tablets daily.

“Because it's the most common kind of dementia in late life, we were especially interested in focusing on Alzheimer's disease as well as all other causes of dementia that occur in late life,” said Dr. Steven Dekosky, with the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

The study's findings appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The seven-year study compared the effect of Ginkgo biloba with placebo in more than 3,000 people age 75 and older with normal or mild cognitive impairment.

“The test results showed us that under these circumstances, Ginkgo doesn't appear to have any effect of slowing down thinking changes in late life,” Dekosky said.

Researchers said they still plan to search for a way to delay the onset of dementia in the elderly.

“Delaying the onset of the disease for 10 years would effectively eliminate it from the population,” Dekosky said.