Ginkgo Protects Against Alzheimer's

The longest and largest European study for Alzeimer's disease (AD) ever conducted has been completed and we are pleased to announce that the results are in.

Ginkgo extract was found to be significantly protective against the development of AD. The GuidAge Study commenced in 2002 and was randomised, double-blind, and placebo controlled – the gold standard design of scientific trials.

The researchers assessed the effects of a 50:1 standardised Ginkgo extract at 240mg a day, taken for up to 5 years, on the prevention of AD in individuals aged 70 years or more and complaining of memory problems.

They used a Mini-Mental State Examination to determine cognitive function in the 2,854 study participants.

The longest and largest European study for Alzheimer's disease ever conducted found that Ginkgo extract was significantly protective against the development of the disease.

Not only did the examiners find that people taking the Ginkgo extract were less likely to develop AD, they also discovered that the patients taking Ginkgo for the longest time (in this case, for at least 4 years) were clinically and statistically even less likely to develop AD.

Interestingly the protective effect was most marked in men.

If we look back further to a review published in 2008, 34 placebo controlled trials conducted prior to 2002 assessed the efficacy of standardised Ginkgo extract in treating AD and dementia of vascular origin.

Despite some methodological limitations, the evidence generally yielded positive results. As well as the usual criteria of randomisation and trial binding, this review also considered relevant patient evaluation, quality of life of patients and carers, and ability to conduct everyday activities.

So if the data points to Ginkgo working well to prevent AD, then why isn't everybody with a family history of the condition told to take it? That is a good question.

The media is quick to tell us to be careful with natural medicines.

Particularly when we may be able to save ourselves pharmacy dollars by working to prevent disease occurring in the first place.

The bad press and generalisations of some poorly conducted studies being published often can cause us to shy away from supplements that may be integral to a long, healthy lifespan.

Differences in design and execution of the GuidAge study and a US study on AD are likely to account for the contrasting results reported by the teams of researchers. The US study found no protective benefit for Ginkgo.

One of the crucial differences between the two studies was the compliance rate.

This was only around 60% for the patients in the US trial, whereas 93% of the participants in the GuidAge took their medication regularly.

Suprise, suprise – you need to take your medication for it to have an effect.

Also, different types of extracts have been used in other trials that have shown inconsistent results. But don't all Gingko extracts work the same way? The short answer is no.

When German researchers in the 1960's discovered an extract of Ginkgo biloba leaves to be particularly beneficial for conditions characterised by disrupted blood flow, it led to the development of a special 50:1 concentrated extract, standardised to contain certain amounts of active properties and manufactured as to not contain undesirable substances.

Since then, a large number of Ginkgo products have flooded our shelves. Not all of them, however, reflect the phyto-chemical profile of this clincally-trialled extract.

The right form of Ginkgo must be used to guarantee it's efficacy.

The results of this GuidAge European clinical trial are a positive step towards promoting healthy aging.

These findings will hopefully encourage more clinical research into natural interventions against AD.


Emed's Comment:

Prevention is definitely better than cure.

Not only better, but more effective, less painful and generally cheaper.

The nerve cell loss that happens in AD might start around age 40, but by the time the person shows symptoms of AD (say in their 60s or 70s) a large percentage of the damage to their brain has already been done.

Therefore, this is a disorder that is best prevented and our major lead is Ginkgo.

This GuidAge study is one of the fist studies where an intervention – natural or otherwise – has demonstrated a clinically significant protective effect against AD onset.

Go Ginkgo!

The currently approved pharmaceutical drugs for the treatment of AD increase acetylcholine in the body by inhibiting its breakdown (acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is low in individuals with AD due to a number of changes in the brain).

Benefits from these drugs are very limited and they can have severe side effects (one of the common drugs used, Tacrine, is toxic for your liver).

Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Leon Flicker stated that “The evidence to date is that treatments based on the cholinergic hypothesis are essentially symptomatic.No substantial data support the hypothesis that these medications modify the disease – that is, delay its progression. There is little evidence that these medications work in patients with either incipient dementia or advanced disease…”.

Essentially these drugs seem to be a symptomatic treatment of limited benefit.

Although this new study is exciting, the evidence for Ginkgo as a proven preventative and treatment for AD is not entirely conclusive.

However, Ginkgo is at least a treatment without side effects and a whole lot of other benefits.

It is an antioxidant, enhances cognition and is neuroprotective, stimulates circulation and increases blood flow to tissues, and is anti-aging – among Ginkgo's many other benefits.

If you know you are at risk of developing AD, then it may be a good idea to take a Ginkgo supplement long term. Click here to view one of Emed's best Ginkgo supplements.

Remember caution is advised to people taking anti-coagulant drugs, however the risk of an adverse effect is low (and has been exaggerated in the scientific literature).

Do not take Ginkgo with Warfarin unless you are being monitored by your health care practitioner.

It is recommended that you discontinue Gingko use at least one week prior to surgery.

If you want more specific information about an individualised treatment plan for you, the Emed E-Consult is an ideal approach to achieving optimum health.

The detailed report generated from the questionnaire will provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your health.

You will find out the exact supplements you need to take to promote good health and reduce your susceptibility for disease and illness. Click here for more information.


What Else Can I Do?

There is little that can be done regarding the generally accepted risk factors of AD such as age, family history, certain genes, sex, and conditions such as Down's syndrome.

However, identifying and treating people who are at risk with natural interventions such as Ginkgo is a great start.

Furthermore, there are other possible risk factors that can be more easily influenced with appropriate diet, lifestyle and supplementary measures.

Some of the possible risk factors in developing AD that can be addressed are:

  • Head injuries increase risk – wear protective head gear as appropriate. Helmet hair is in!
  • Address vascular risk factors, such as hypertension.
  • Stay mentally active. Learn new things. Brain train.
  • Maintain good thyroid function.
  • Minimise your stress.
  • Avoid exposure to solvents.
  • Avoid aluminum exposure (avoid tap water, stop using aluminum pots, stop drinking out of aluminum cans) and increase silicon take (e.g. drink nettle tea).
  • Reduce your levels of homocysteine (decrease caffeine consumption, can supplement with folate).
  • Have a good Calcium and Magnesium intake.Click here for Emed's best Calcium supplements. Click here for Emed's best Magnesium supplements.
  • Check your Zinc levels and maintain appropriate Zinc status. Click here for information on the Emed Zinc Level Test.
  • Have a good antioxidant intake. When eating vegetables, try to include all the colours of the rainbow!
  • Look to your diet. Eating a poor diet high in processed, fatty and salty foods leaches minerals from your body and promotes an ideal environment for ill health. 
  • Eating plenty of fresh, leafy greens, lean meats, fruit and vegies and you'll give yourself the best chance of achieving great health naturally. Read ‘Health Promoting Nutrition' for more information.
  • Have a Optimal Nutrition Evaluation (ONE) Test to determine your metabolic profile, amino acid levels and oxidative stress in your body. This test is particularly relevant for people with neurodegenerative conditions such as AD. Click here for more information about Emed's ONE Test.


Further Reading