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Ginkgo Doesn't Improve Memory Or Cognitive Skills 403

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the go-go-science dept.
JumperCable writes "Ginkgo biloba has failed — again — to live up to its reputation for boosting memory and brain function. Just over a year after a study showed that the herb doesn't prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease, a new study from the same team of researchers has found no evidence that ginkgo reduces the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging. In the new study, the largest of its kind to date, DeKosky and his colleagues followed more than 3,000 people between the ages of 72 and 96 for an average of six years. Half of the participants took two 120-milligram capsules of ginkgo a day during the study period, and the other half took a placebo. The people who took ginkgo showed no differences in attention, memory, and other cognitive measures compared to those who took the placebo, according to the study, which was published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association."
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Ginkgo Doesn't Improve Memory Or Cognitive Skills

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  • by For a Free Internet (1594621) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:36PM (#30595232)

    These euro-centric "scientists" can't see pas their narrow-minded blinders to tap into the millenia of cultural experience embodied in Eastern medical and spiritual traditions. The point is, Gingko Baloba has a very potent effect when added to the labels of alternative medical products, causing them to fly off the shelves in exchange for cash. Western medicine is just jealous and probably racist and sexist against peoples like me.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:48PM (#30595506) Journal

      Sounds like they should do some tests on this "placebo" stuff to see what makes it as good as ginkgo.

      • by Phreakiture (547094) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:12PM (#30595946) Homepage
        I know you're joking, but I actually would have thought it really cool if they had a second control group who took nothing, just to see if there is a psychosomatic element in play.
        • There is, that's why they tested it against placebo. If they had tested it against taking nothing they would have found ginkgo (or the placebo) improved memory.
          • Yep, the Placebo effect is well documented so there's really no need to test it in every study.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by natehoy (1608657)

          Actually, if they wanted to check psychosomatic elements, the ideal would be to have subgroups who "know" what they are taking, but lie to some of them. So you have a group that "knows" they are taking the real thing (some of them actually are, some of them are taking the placebo), and a group that "knows" they are taking the placebo (some are, some aren't). Arrange it so the people appear to have learned accidentally about their faked status, so they feel certain they know the truth.

          If a significant perc

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

            The second portion of that is unneccessary, because if the drug really works the people who take the placebo will see less of an improvement than the ones taking the drug. There isn't any need to over-complicate it.

            If the placebo and the drug both have identical effects, then the drug is actually a placebo also.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Machtyn (759119)
            This sounds like an episode of House.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lorenlal (164133)

        I read this [wired.com] a while back, and it's been noted that placebos are becoming even more effective... so the manufacturers are making even more potent ones.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tgatliff (311583)

        Tests like these are flawed from the beginning, and I am sure that these scientists know this. The trick that is always played by supplement manufactures are to set the dosages much lower than what is required to reduce side effects. Meaning, for any "drug" to work, there will always be side effects.

        For Ginko, the effective dosage is around 600mg per day, and I can tell you from years of experience that it works quite well at this dosage. There are many side effects in some people at this dosage, however

        • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @03:33PM (#30598290)

          If the Ginko was doing anything, it should have shown a slight improvement over the placebo even at 120mg. If the results come back essentially the same, then it is obviously not the Ginko improving memory.

          The placebo effect is powerful on its own, and had they used another control group who took nothing you probably would have seen the Ginko and placebo groups both averaging better scores than the control group. That doesn't mean the Ginko itself actually does anything.

          Even assuming you are right that Ginko will have literally no affect whatsoever until the dosage is above a certain level (which I find ridiculous, btw), if it is unsafe to use at its effective dosage, what's the point?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Too. Damn. Funny.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dyingtolive (1393037)

      These euro-centric "scientists" can't see pas their narrow-minded blinders to tap into the millenia of cultural experience embodied in Eastern medical and spiritual traditions.

      Yup, right up there with leeching and medicinal tapeworms. Those aren't "eastern", but they were used for years too. Got a headache? We'll drill a gaping, untreated hole in your head to release the "bad spirits"! Thats African, not "eastern", but do you think it's not effective? You must clearly be racist and sexist as well.

      The point is, Gingko Baloba has a very potent effect when added to the labels of alternative medical products, causing them to fly off the shelves in exchange for cash.

      Yup, it makes yuppies in "Organic" food stores worldwide not listen to reason. I've another shipment of snake oil that's been selling so well I can hardly keep it in stock. Since t

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by nasch (598556)

        I think you should probably just get a new sarcasm detector. Yours may be beyond repair.

  • by Green Light (32766) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:36PM (#30595234) Journal
    I have noticed that when I take it, I am more "motivated". I get up out of my chair and do stuff, rather than surf, say, slashdot.
  • ...is ginkgo biloba good for?
  • by vvaduva (859950) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:37PM (#30595242)

    Yes but was it ORGANIC Kinkgo?? That is the question! This test was obviously conducted by real doctors who don't want us to know the truth about the power of eating weeds that grow in exotic jungles.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:51PM (#30595536)

      No, first you need to grow the Ginko organically. Then you need to increase the potency by diluting it homeopathically. Next, you form it into an ear candle [discovermagazine.com]. Once you do that, the the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot will contact the aliens from Vega 7 who will beam increased memory skills and ESP into you. But if any of this is attempted by "Western medicine", it will all fail.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by The Flymaster (112510)

      Well, not to speak for ginko or non-science, but it's not like eating weeds that grow in exotic jungles hasn't helped save a life or two.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dan Ost (415913)

        This whole herbs thing doesn't make any sense to me.

        People eat "herbs" because they think some chemical in the "herb" offers some medicinal benefit. If that chemical can be extracted (or synthesized) in a more pure form and put in a pill, then why would you eat the plant instead? The plant might have the chemical you want, but it also has lots of other (possibly harmful) stuff in it that the pill is free of. Also, with the pill, you know how much of the active ingredient you're getting. There's no way to kn

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Because people might not know which things they need to extract. Cannabis is a good example. Most people focus on THC, yet there are many other similar chemicals that have not been studied to the same extend THC has. In other words, the whole idea of taking plants with benefits and exacting the single chemical that makes them useful to us, then putting it into a pill, may be a waste of time in some cases. Not to mention the complex chemical processes that take place inside a plant that don't happen inside a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cain (14472)

      I know you're making a joke, but ginko is far from exotic and nor is it a weed (it's a tree). It is widely grown in cities as it is very hardy. If you live in NYC, you see them all over the place and come fall can't help but smell the foul odor of the pods as they fall to the ground and are crushed underfoot.

      http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=200005235 [efloras.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginkgo_Biloba [wikipedia.org]
      &c, &c

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MBGMorden (803437)

      I concur. They also need to make sure that they're using ALL NATURAL ginkgo.

      I find it comical that the "ALL NATURAL" movement has any weight behind it when countless varieties of "all natural" plants are quite poisonous, whilst tons of completely chemically derived artificial medicines will save your life.

      Heck I literally remember one stupid infomercial that was on a while back where the guy (one of those typical hyped up dorks who always appears on such shows) was proclaiming that we shouldn't eat anythin

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vvaduva (859950)

        That's the problem with crowds listening to someone like that on TV. They will say "we only eat natural stuff." My response is: mercury occurs naturally, so why don't eat it? Or why are you opposed to smoking "natural" tobacco? There are many things that occur naturally that will kill you or harm you.

        It's madness out there. People go insane over the Bovine Growth Hormone (BVH) but they don't understand that it's produced naturally in the cow's pituitary gland. We could go on forever with ridiculous exampl

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014)

      Seriously, you have *no* idea what you're getting when you buy a "nutritional supplement".

      Let's suppose there is some clinical evidence for a supplement's effectiveness. If you buy it in "herbal" form, it might not contain the same parts of the plant that were studied. If you buy the compound, you might not get the same enantiomer studied.

      In fact, in the United States you might not be getting what the label says at all. There was a study cited in Science News a few years back which showed that "dietary s

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:38PM (#30595272) Homepage

    Holy shit, that's a lot of placebo.
    But just wait until I convince everyone to eat my lawn. I'll be rich!

    Oh wait ... http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/pages/product_detail.asp?pid=138 [hollandandbarrett.com]

    • Holy shit, that's a lot of placebo.

      There was a study done (google it yourself, I'm feeling lazy) that showed that placebos work better when they're expensive (the target must know of the great value of the placebo).

      Mind over matter, and keep your mind on the pricetag!

  • by jarocho (1617799) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:42PM (#30595362)
    I bet the herbal supplements industry is hoping its customers will forget all about this report eventually... :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They don't need to. Herbal health people are like religious extremists, any sort of logic won't get absorbed by their brain.
      • by swb (14022)

        And they are conspiracists; they assume that any "scientific study" was rigged by Big Pharma or some other enemy to discredit herbals.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Onymous Coward (97719)

          I'm an advocate of herbal remedies. Well, the ones that work. Plants can be pretty potent, and to think otherwise is shockingly naive. Not every herb is going to be a cure-all, but there's a gamut of plants that effectively address an array of health problems. Or recreational desires.

          Over-reliance on synthetics created by for-profit organizations is itself basically a disease. If, say, your first choice for addressing depression is an SSRI prescription, you've been infected by advertising.

          • by Dan Ost (415913) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @03:34PM (#30598304)

            What herbal remedies do you recommend?

            Why do you believe that these remedies are effective?

            How do these remedies compare to the drugs that target the same complaints in both cost and effectiveness?

            What qualifies you to be making medicinal recommendations to others? Do you have relevant training?

            Over-reliance on synthetics created by for-profit organizations is itself basically a disease. If, say, your first choice for addressing depression is an SSRI prescription, you've been infected by advertising.

            What would your first choice be for treating depression? And what, exactly, is your decision based on?

            • can't buy me love (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Onymous Coward (97719)

              What herbal remedies do you recommend?

              My drug recommendations all come with the serious urging that you research deeply on your own. That includes my recommendations for plant-derived or synthetic, brand-name drugs. Do you think gobbling down Tagamet and aspirin, just because you can buy them off the drug store shelf, without an understanding of drug metabolization is a good idea?

              For difficulty sleeping or resetting a sleep schedule, for antioxidant effect, plant-derived melatonin. As such a fundamental neurochemical, you'll want to be caref

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Joe Snipe (224958)

        any sort of logic won't get absorbed by their brain.

        Prolly because they don't take enough Ginko Biloba...

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:02PM (#30595782) Homepage Journal

      On the other hand, St. John's Wort has been proven as effective at treating depression as Paxil. So you can't lump all the herbals together. Just because Ginko doesn't work doesn't mean no herbs work.

      • by Chris Daniel (807289) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:20PM (#30596124) Homepage

        Yes, St. John's Wort is effective. However, you should always consult with your doctor before taking it, as it can interfere with other drugs (specifically, I have read that it prevents or retards the mechanism of absorbing drugs into the bloodstream).

        However, do keep in mind that the effectiveness of a single herbal medicine does not change the effectiveness of other herbal medicines.

      • by fusiongyro (55524)

        If they work, they eventually become medicine. Otherwise they remain snake oil.

      • by swb (14022)

        So that means that Paxil is equally ineffective?

      • by geekoid (135745)

        No it hasn't, stop lying.

        Many medicines come from herbs, that's not an issue. The issue is 'herbal remedies' that are herbs that have not been shown to have any medicinal effect above placebo.

        You test an herb, if something shows up you testi ti in better contralloed conditions an so on. Either it is shown effective and replicate it, or you toss it away and get on to the next study.

      • It is effective at treating light to light-moderate cases of depression. It has been shown no better than placebo for more severe cases. Plus, it has the added bonus of being impossible to know exactly how much of the drug you are taking, as concentrations will vary wildly by plant/time of year/soil.

        Source: NIH/NCCAM [nih.gov]
      • On the other hand, St. John's Wort has been proven as effective at treating depression as Paxil.

        ...which is why you should stay far, far away from it. A proven psychoactive substance with no regulation or standardization? That's a recipe for disaster.

  • by McNihil (612243) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:42PM (#30595364)

    Aspirin or Ginko?

    http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginkgo-biloba-000247.htm [umm.edu]

    Better concentration (some subjects thinking that that is one of the memory functions) could be a side effect of them not having headaches due to hypertension. Sample set yadi yada and so on.... statistics and damned lies.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Wow, that link is full od things that have been shown false about Ginko.

      the Alt-Med* people seem to have infiltrated that school.

      *by alt med I mean idiots that will hurt and kill people.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:44PM (#30595394) Homepage Journal

    Or perhaps it's best put, wonders often never materialize in the first place. Is anyone really surprised that something sold with a big "these claims have not been evaluated by the FDA" on the bottle has, in fact, been found to do nothing close to the claim?

    Hopefully herbal viagra is next, and some day spammers will be emailing about things people actually can use...*

    *(warning the claims in this post have not been evaluated by the FDA)

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:55PM (#30595646) Journal
      The "These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA" and its close friend "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease." are generally a signal that the product is sold as a "dietary supplement" or "nutritional supplement".

      Thanks to DSHEA [fda.gov], the FDA legally can't do jack about it unless they have direct evidence of a given product causing serious harm(and their budget for going on epidemiological expeditions for that sort of thing isn't much to write home about).

      Whether you consider this a shining beacon of freedom, or an ignoble nest of quacks, it seems likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        "FDA legally can't do jack about it"
        Thanks Reagan!

    • by kesuki (321456)

      "Hopefully herbal viagra is next, and some day spammers will be emailing about things people actually can use..."

      that is like waiting for the world to change, spammers have plenty or subjects, porn, money scams, pyramid scams, i could go on, but it's better if i don't. charging for email would solve the scam problems by at least 75%

  • Well that explains why I can't remember where I put my Gingko.

    Seriously though, I had a suspicion 10 years ago when I took it, I couldn't see any difference either.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "Seriously though, I had a suspicion 10 years ago when I took it, I couldn't see any difference either."
      Tha';s a horrible way to evaluate something. It's the same type of thinking that gives these idiots power in the market place.

      Yes, studies show it does nothing, but using that to do bias confirmation is a bad thing.

  • Smoke and coffee.
  • Wait, what were we talking about?

  • unless the researchers were taking ginkgo to improve their memory and cognitive skills? They probably made a lot of mental mistakes...
  • Interesting fact (Score:5, Insightful)

    by static416 (1002522) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:57PM (#30595696)
    You know what they call alternative medicine that works?.... Medicine.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:04PM (#30595824)
    I love the bullshit reply from the supplements industry group:

    A supplements industry group, Council for Responsible Nutrition, said other studies suggest the herbal supplement can be effective in improving cognitive function.

    "In an area where there are few other safe, affordable options, I would hate to see this study send the wrong message to consumers," Douglas MacKay, CRN vice president said in an email. "I would continue to recommend Ginkgo biloba to older adults as a safe, effective option for supporting cognitive health."

    Cue the "but it worked in my case" replies...

  • Bart never took ginkgo biloba for a reason!
  • I read the book Natural Causes [randomhouse.com] a while back and it opened my eyes to the sham that the supplement industry is. Note I said industry, not supplements. I'm sure some of these things have useful effects, and would love to see more experiments performed to determine what they are. Until then, I won't ever touch them again, including even multivitamins.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      actually, the usual process is something is shown not o work so then it becaome alt-med.

      Since there is no dosage control, usually no way to know where the ingredients come from, and are known to be laced with heavy metals, you can't really test the shelf product.
      You can test the active item that the claim is made from.

      Import herbal medicines have been know to ahve traced of aspirin, amphetamines, caffeine.

  • They will still be able to continue to sell this with the same exact claims. So long as it's a "supplement" and not a medication, nothing can be done under current regulations. The only thing that would get it removed from shelves if it was proven toxic, and even then maybe not.
  • So what does improve memory or cognitive skills? I've heard of rampant use of things like Adderall at universities, any personal stories? What about things like Piracetam? I remember reading about that in Mondo 2000 and always wondered if it was bunk.

  • the ginkgo tree itself is pretty amazing: its the coelacanth of trees

    known only from the ancient fossil record, having aspects of a missing link between major plant classifications, and with no other living relatives by a long shot (at least from the perspective of western science). until isolated specimens were located, to western expert's amazed awe, in 1690. it was cultivated in the east, and this probably led to its survival, since the only populations anyone can consider wild are only in a tiny mountain reserve in eastern china... but even this group of trees might only exist because it was tended by monks for millenia, ironically for this story, probably because of medicinal value

    in other words, the coelacanth of trees may only continue to exist in this world due to the efforts of ancient man, the inverse relationship between extinction and mankind. either way, if you've ever looked at a ginkgo leaf, you can readily appreciate how ancient and alien the plant is. its like a tiny fan, a completely unique morphology unlike any other leaf you have ever seen on any other plant

    Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba; in Chinese and Japanese , pinyin romanization: yín xìng, Hepburn romanization: ich or ginnan), also spelled gingko, also known as the Maidenhair Tree after Adiantum, is a unique species of tree with no close living relatives. The ginkgo is classified in its own division, the Ginkgophyta, comprising the single class Ginkgoopsida, order Ginkgoales, family Ginkgoaceae, genus Ginkgo and is the only extant species within this group. It is one of the best-known examples of a living fossil, because Ginkgoales other than G. biloba are not known from the fossil record after the Pliocene.[1][3]
    For centuries it was thought to be extinct in the wild, but is now known to grow in at least two small areas in Zhejiang province in Eastern China, in the Tian Mu Shan Reserve. However, recent studies indicate high genetic uniformity among ginkgo trees from these areas, arguing against a natural origin of these populations and suggesting that the ginkgo trees in these areas may have been planted and preserved by Chinese monks over a period of about 1000 years.[4] Whether native ginkgo populations still exist has not been demonstrated unequivocally.
    The relationship of Ginkgo to other plant groups remains uncertain. It has been placed loosely in the divisions Spermatophyta and Pinophyta, but no consensus has been reached. Since Ginkgo seeds are not protected by an ovary wall, it can morphologically be considered a gymnosperm. The apricot-like structures produced by female ginkgo trees are technically not fruits, but are seeds that have a shell that consists of a soft and fleshy section (the sarcotesta), and a hard section (the sclerotesta).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginkgo_biloba [wikipedia.org]

  • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:52PM (#30596726) Homepage

    Financial Disclosures: ... Dr DeKosky reports receiving grants or research support from Elan, Myriad, Neurochem, and GlaxoSmithKline and serving on the advisory boards of or consulting for AstraZeneca, Abbott, Baxter, Daichi, Eisai, Forest, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly, Medivation, Merck, NeuroPharma, Neuroptix, Pfizer, Myriad, and Servier. No other disclosures were reported.

    Not to say the results of this particular study are necessarily bogus, but sure makes one wonder.

    Big pharma dislikes "natural", as in often unpatentable, treatments; discourages their use.

    Ron

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @02:44PM (#30597504) Homepage Journal

    Herbal supplement's are not concentrated like pharmaceuticals are.... 120 mg a day won't get you anything. Take 120 mg a day of most herbs that have active drug compounds and you're likely to get no more than a trace of that drug, whereas pharmaceuticals take the active compound and synthesize it - then give you 120 mg of the concentrated compound.

    As a laugh, you could take 120 mg of marijuana - even good stuff... and smoke it. That's maybe 1/4 of a joint (you'd get about 2 joints out of a gram of weed if you were conservative). How high are you going to get on 1/4 of a joint? Not very... and THC is a fairly potent compound. Gingko is not nearly as potent.

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