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Ginkgo Biloba Might Not Preserve Memory in Octogenarians
Date:2/28/2008

Study saw no clear benefit, but did see small number of strokes, mini-strokes

THURSDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Ginkgo biloba, the popular herbal supplement widely promoted as a memory enhancer, offered no clear-cut protection against memory loss in octogenarians, a new study shows.

And a small but disturbing pattern showed up in those who took the herb extract during the three-year study, the researchers added.

"Seven had TIAs (transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes) or stroke," said study author Dr. Hiroko Dodge, an assistant professor of public health at Oregon State University. Exactly why this happened requires further study, she added.

Ginkgo biloba is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, protecting cell membranes and helping govern the workings of the brain's chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters. Some studies have found that the herb may help some people with Alzheimer's disease.

Dodge's team evaluated 118 men and women aged 85 and older who were all free of memory complaints at the start of the study. They scored normally on a memory function test before being admitted to the study. Half were assigned to take 240 milligrams of ginkgo biloba extract daily; half got a placebo.

Overall, Dodge found that 21 people developed mild memory problems during the study -- 14 took placebo, and 7 took the ginkgo supplement. "There was a clear tendency that ginkgo prevents memory decline," but the differences in the preservation of memory between the two groups were not statistically significant, she said.

But when the researchers did a secondary analysis, taking into account the level of medication adherence, those who actually remembered to take the extract did show some benefit. "Those taking the ginkgo extract [on a regular basis] had a 70 percent lower risk of developing mild memory problems than those taking placebo," she said.

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