Does Ginkgo Help People with Alzheimer’s Disease?
Ginkgo: a support but not a prevention
Ginkgo biloba extract has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine to support brain and nervous system function. Prior studies have shown that ginkgo extract may improve cognitive functioning in healthy older adults, in people with age-related cognitive decline, and in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Several properties such as antioxidant and anti-clotting activities are thought to contribute to its beneficial effects.
A new study, however, shows that ginkgo extract may not help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Study participants were 3,069 healthy community volunteers over age 75 who had normal cognition. Participants were randomly assigned to receive 120 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract or placebo twice a day for an average of six years. During the six years, dementia developed in 16% of the participants in the placebo and in 18% of those in the extract group. The study authors concluded that the extract was not effective in reducing the overall incidence of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Alan Gaby, M.D., chief science officer for Aisle7, commented about the study: “People with normal mental function should not take ginkgo with the hope of preserving their brain function. However, there is good evidence from earlier studies that people with age-related cognitive decline may benefit from taking ginkgo.”
Healthy behaviors keep the mind active
Stimulating activities and healthy behaviors help keep seniors’ minds alert and active. Here are some ways to support the brain and nervous system for optimal thinking:
• Eat a balanced diet: Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables and a moderate amount of fish and poultry, whole grains, legumes, and nuts to keep the mind and body strong.
• Kick bad habits: Alcohol can impair a person’s ability to think, so drink alcohol only in moderation (if at all) and don’t smoke! Smoking impairs the brain’s circulation.
• Exercise regularly: People who exercise 30 minutes a day most days of the week may have enhanced cognitive performance compared with people who do not exercise.
• Stay socially active: People who regularly engage with others in social activities may preserve brain power longer than those who isolate themselves. Join a book club, attend a community activity, and say “yes” to that party invitation to stay connected and keep your mind sharp.
• Flex your mental muscles: The “use it or lose it” philosophy suggests that using your mind can help preserve cognitive functioning. Experts recommend playing games such as chess or doing crossword puzzles to help keep the mind challenged and healthy.
December 31, 2008
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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