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Original Contribution
December 23 2009

Ginkgo biloba for Preventing Cognitive Decline in Older Adults: A Randomized Trial

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Neurology (Drs Snitz, Saxton, Lopez, and DeKosky and Ms Dunn) and Epidemiology (Ms Ives), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington, Seattle (Drs O’Meara and Arnold); Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Maryland (Dr Carlson); Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine (Dr Rapp) and Internal Medicine (Geriatrics/Gerontology), School of Medicine (Dr Sink), Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and School of Medicine, University of Virginia, Charlottesville (Dr DeKosky).

JAMA. 2009;302(24):2663-2670. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1913
Abstract

Context The herbal product Ginkgo biloba is taken frequently with the intention of improving cognitive health in aging. However, evidence from adequately powered clinical trials is lacking regarding its effect on long-term cognitive functioning.

Objective To determine whether G biloba slows the rates of global or domain-specific cognitive decline in older adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants The Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 3069 community-dwelling participants aged 72 to 96 years, conducted in 6 academic medical centers in the United States between 2000 and 2008, with a median follow-up of 6.1 years.

Intervention Twice-daily dose of 120-mg extract of G biloba (n = 1545) or identical-appearing placebo (n = 1524).

Main Outcome Measures Rates of change over time in the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MSE), in the cognitive subscale of the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-Cog), and in neuropsychological domains of memory, attention, visual-spatial construction, language, and executive functions, based on sums of z scores of individual tests.

Results Annual rates of decline in z scores did not differ between G biloba and placebo groups in any domains, including memory (0.043; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.034-0.051 vs 0.041; 95% CI, 0.032-0.050), attention (0.043; 95% CI, 0.037-0.050 vs 0.048; 95% CI, 0.041-0.054), visuospatial abilities (0.107; 95% CI, 0.097-0.117 vs 0.118; 95% CI, 0.108-0.128), language (0.045; 95% CI, 0.037-0.054 vs 0.041; 95% CI, 0.033-0.048), and executive functions (0.092; 95% CI, 0.086-0.099 vs 0.089; 95% CI, 0.082-0.096). 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 (for 3MSE, P = .71; for ADAS-Cog, P = .97). 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 (P > .05).

Conclusion 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.

Trial Registration clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00010803

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