Herbal Hope for Alzheimer's: Gink-Gone?

via Bryce Wylde

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Alzheimers

The latest on Ginkgo Biloba and Alzheimers isn’t too promising

The latest news about ginkgo biloba indicates that the supplement does not prevent Alzheimer’s disease in older adults and doesn’t slow down the progression of the disease in those who have it. Reuters reports that in the largest study of the supplement to date, people who took twice-a-day doses of gingko biloba were just as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as those given a placebo.
The French study, published in the Lancet Neurology Journal, was conducted over five years and involved 2,854 people aged 70 years or older and already had gone to the doctor with concerns about their memory. Ginkgo Biloba extract, was given to half the people, 1406 patients, while the other 1414 were given a placebo. Researchers then used standard memory tests to assess the patient’s memory, cognitive function and dementia status.
After five years, 61 people in the ginkgo biloba group, or 4 percent, had been diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease, compared with 73 or 5 percent, in the placebo group. But the researchers say the difference is not statistically significant. The study was funded by Ipsen, a producer of ginkgo biloba supplements.
The results confirm the findings of another study in the United States in 2009 that had a similar outcome results.
There was hope that ginkgo would have a bigger impact on cognitive decline after research on animals had suggested the extract, made from the leaves of the ginkgo biloba plant, might prevent the most common form of dementia. It contains three groups of complex compounds called flavonoids, diterpines and sesquiterpines, which increase blood flow and improve circulation. Gingko also is a strong antioxidant, which increases oxygen and nutrients to the central nervous system. So, where there are benefits, I don’t believe it is a ‘waste of time’.
The authors of this latest study are not sure why ginkgo doesn’t seem to work. Lead author, Dr. Bruno Vellas of the University Hospital in Toulouse, France, says, “It may be that people need to take it for longer.” And he suggests a longer study may need to be undertaken.
An estimated 18 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide and with the aging-population, those numbers are expected to increase exponentially.
Dr. Vellas says, “The fact that prevalence of this debilitating disorder is expected to quadruple by 2050 suggests that research into preventative therapies for this disease needs to receive urgent attention.”
Dr. Lon Schneider, director of the California Alzheimer’s Disease Center, who wrote an accompanying commentary to the study results, says “The idea of popping a pill or food supplement to prevent Alzheimer’s is just an exercise in hope at this point. If something doesn’t do what you want it to do, why continue taking it?”
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and the treatments, so far, have shown conflicting results with many serious side-effects, people are searching for some answers.
But there are some things you can do to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. Number one on the list, improve your diet. An article I wrote this month on Brain Boosting Nutrition, can tell you the foods that are most effective to support the brain. It also lists some supplements that can help, but a reminder that before you begin taking any new supplements, discuss it with your primary care provider first. A doctor well versed in complementary alternative medicine can best tell you about dosage, about potential side-effects and whether it will interfere with any medications you may be taking.
One supplement that has shown promise with easing mental decline is citicoline. It’s a brain chemical that occurs naturally in our bodies but it is also a supplement that can be taken orally or intravenously. It was originally used in Japan for stroke survivors but is now used for memory problems, to increase circulation in the brain. Citicoline seems to be safe when taken short-term (up to 90 days) but the safety of long-term use is not yet known.
Another supplement to consider is Vinpocetine, a semi-synthetic derivative of vincamine, which is an alkaloid from the Periwinkle plant. It has been shown in double-blind studies to help alleviate a type of dementia known as vascular dementia, in which the arteries supplying blood to the brain develop plaques. While one double-blind study found that vincamine can help people with Alzheimer’s disease, another open study found it didn’t have any significant effect. I spoke about how it works on the Dr. Oz show. Here is more about how it works in detail.
Another article that addresses the issue of improving brain-function, looks at Green Tea’s impact on memory.
Get regular exercise, it increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain which will help to keep your brain healthy.
Keep your mind active, by reading, doing crossword puzzles and brain teasers, and even learn a new language. It’s all part of the “use it or lose it” philosophy.

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