Gingko biloba does not prevent cognitive decline

January 01, 0001

Gingko biloba does not prevent cognitive decline

Ginkgo biloba, a herbal supplement, is often used to improve cognitive health in aging. These US authors sought to determine whether G biloba slows the rates of cognitive decline in older adults. This study, the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study, was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 3069 community-dwelling patients aged 72 to 96 years. They received 120-mg extract of G biloba or identical appearing placebo BID. The Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MSE), the cognitive subscale of the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-Cog), and other tests were used to monitor cognitive function.

The authors found: "Annual rates of decline in z scores did not differ between G biloba and placebo groups in any domains, including memory (0.043 vs 0.041), attention (0.043 vs 0.048), visuospatial abilities (0.107 vs 0.118), language (0.045 vs 0.041), and executive functions (0.092; vs 0.089). For the 3MSE and ADAS-Cog, rates of change varied by baseline cognitive status (mild cognitive impairment), but there were no differences in rates of change between treatment groups. There was no significant effect modification of treatment on rate of decline by age, sex, race, education, APOE*E4 allele, or baseline mild cognitive impairment."

They concluded: "Compared with placebo, the use of G biloba, 120 mg twice daily, did not result in less cognitive decline in older adults with normal cognition or with mild cognitive impairment."

This important negative finding strongly suggests that there is no role for Gingko biloba supplementation in preventing memory loss or other cognitive decline.

For the full abstract, click here.

JAMA 302(24):2663-2670, 23 December 2009
© 2009 American Medical Association
Ginkgo biloba for Preventing Cognitive Decline in Older Adults-A Randomized Trial. Beth E. Snitz, Ellen S. O’Meara, Michelle C. Carlson et al.. Correspondence to::

Category: N. Neurological. Keywords: Gingko biloba, herbal supplement, cognitive decline, aging, GEM study, randomized control trial, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Paul Schaefer, Toledo, Ohio. Posted on Global Family Doctor 26 January 2009

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.