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Diet & Health : General Health Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Ginkgo biloba helps memory, but may raise stroke risk
By David Liu, Ph. D.
Mar 2, 2008 - 10:17:50 PM

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SUNDAY MARCH 2, 2008 ( -- A study published online Wednesday Feb 27 in the journal Neurology suggests taking a ginkgo biloba extract may help maintain memory in elderly people.

But the same study also showed that the users of ginkgo biloba extract were at higher risk of mini-strokes or mild strokes.

Ginkgo biloba extracts are sold as dietary supplements to enhance memory as some studies found that it may help improve memory and other mental functions in people with dementia.

Dr. Hiroko H. Dodge at the Oregon State University in Corvallis and colleagues followed 118 people aged 85, half taking ginkgo biloba and half taking a placebo, for three years during which 21 of them developed mild memory problems or signs of dementia.

Among those who had the memory problems, 14 took a placebo while only 7 took the ginkgo biloba extract.  

The researchers said although there was a trend showing that taking the ginkgo biloba extract seemed to reduce the risk for memory loss, the effect was not statistically significant.

Among those who strictly followed the supplementation regimen, the risk for memory problems for those who took the ginkgo biloba extract was only 32 % of that for those who did not.

However, a higher risk of strokes or mini strokes in the ginkgo biloba group was observed.  What is interesting is that the type of stroke observed was vessel blockages, not bleeding, a finding that contradicts early studies.

"Further studies are needed to determine whether ginkgo biloba has any benefits in preventing cognitive decline and whether it is safe," Dodge said.

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