In 2002, a long-anticipated paper appeared in JAMA titled "Ginkgo for memory enhancement: a randomized controlled trial." This Williams College study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging rather than Schwabe, examined the effects of ginkgo consumption on healthy volunteers older than 60. The conclusion, now cited in the National Institutes of Health's ginkgo fact sheet, said: "When taken following the manufacturer's instructions, ginkgo provides no measurable benefit in memory or related cognitive function to adults with healthy cognitive function.
The impact of this seemingly damning assessment, however, was ameliorated by the almost simultaneous publication of a Schwabe-sponsored study in the less prestigious Human Psychopharmacology. This rival study, conducted at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, was rejected by JAMA, and came to a very different—if not exactly sweeping—conclusion: There was ample evidence to support "the potential efficacy of Ginkgo biloba EGb 761 in enhancing certain neuropsychological/memory processes of cognitively intact older adults, 60 years of age and over." The two studies canceled each other out in the court of public opinion; ginkgo sales remained strong.
A large-scale, multicenter, multiyear study might clear things up, but no one appears interested in funding such a massive effort. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is in the midst of a clinical trial involving 3,000 Alzheimer's patients, but this obviously has no bearing on whether ginkgo can help the healthy.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Ginkgo Biloba? Forget About It.
Brendan I. Koerner gives a history of the top-selling brain enhancer. Bottom line: