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Can Ginkgo Stop Memory Loss?

The latest research does not show a conclusive link between the supplement and the prevention of memory loss, but it's not the last word on the subject.

A study published this week in the journal Neurology, tracked the herbal extract's effect on the onset of dementia in 118 people ages 85 and up. Researchers at Oregon State University concluded that the reputed memory booster did not produce a reduction in number of patients that developed dementia.

But the study's results were somewhat undercut. The number of subjects was small, according to Dr. David Knopman of the Mayo Clinic's neurology department, who reviewed the research before publication. The scientists also reported that the results differed when they looked at only the subjects who were most faithfully taking either the extract or a placebo. Those who took the ginkgo biloba supplements without skipping doses fared better on memory tests than did those who took the placebo without skipping doses.

Conclusive? Nope. In a study this small, a trend in a subgroup could be a matter of chance. But more answers may emerge as research into the popular herbal supplement continues. The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health) has begun a Ginkgo in Evaluation of Memory (GEM) Study with more than 3,000 participants at four clinical sites around the country. The results are expected this spring. So remember to look for the next installment of ginkgo biloba news in the coming months.

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