JAMA Study on Ginkgo biloba Not Quite Clear?

JAMA Study on Ginkgo Biloba Effects on Rate of Cognitive Decline ‘Still Misses the Boat’ – “in fact it may not be in the same ocean.

ginkgo bilobaThe study population should have been one situated closer to the onset of cognitive decline – meaning younger people! 

A study released on Tuesday in the December 23/30 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that adults who used the herbal supplement Ginkgo biloba for several years did not have a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to adults who received placebo.  The researchers analyzed results from the 2008 Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study to determine as a secondary outcome if G. biloba slowed the rate of cognitive decline in older adults who had normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) at the beginning of the study.

The Natural Products Association has previously issued comments on the GEM study, which was originally released in November of 2008, questioned the benefits of Ginkgo biloba on preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), saying the study “missed the boat entirely” because the universe of people studied was too limited to make broad statements about the benefits of the popular dietary supplement. [New JAMA Study on Ginkgo Biloba and Alzheimer’s ‘Misses the Boat Entirely’, NPA Member Update, November 18, 2008]

“As we stated in our comments regarding the GEM study last year, the boat has left the dock and this study isn’t on it,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Natural Products Association. “When one considers that age-related cognitive decline may initiate in healthy adults as early as their 30s, it would seem that if the authors were indeed serious about investigating prevention as a secondary outcome, they would have selected a population that was situated closer to the onset of cognitive decline instead of one where its effects most likely have already taken hold.”

One, it looks exclusively at people almost 80 years old who are far more likely to have Alzheimer’s, while ignoring those in middle ages, where the risk for developing the disease rises quickly and prevention could best be analyzed. Two, it excludes completely any consideration of the strong and established role that family history plays with Alzheimer’s. You can’t do a study on the weather without looking at wind and rain,”

It’s is always interesting to us (CAOH) that many studies looking at the benefits of herbal and nutritional supplements never take into account long term use and prevention.  There is never a magic bullet, pill or potion.