ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
The Zen Way to Pain Relief
U.S. Spends Billions On Alternative Medicine
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Human Ancestors Put Best Foot Forward 1.5M Years Ago
Using a Balloon to Repair a Broken Back
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
CANCER
Green Tea Compound Slowed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Mineral May Reduce High-Risk Bladder Disease
Green Tea May Help Prevent Oral Cancer
CAREGIVING
Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly
Newborn Screenings Now Required Across U.S.
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
DIABETES
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Trans Fat Labeling Gets Tricky
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Eating Vegan or Raw-Vegan at Regular Restaurants
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Chemicals in Carpets, Non-Stick Pans Tied to Thyroid Disease
Warmer-Than-Average Temperatures Raise Migraine Risk
Exhaust From Railroad Diesel Linked to Lung Ailments
EYE CARE, VISION
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Gene-Transfer Proves Safe for Vision Problem
FITNESS
FDA Mandates New Warnings for Botox
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Good Warm-Ups Could Halve Sports Injuries
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Brisk Walk Can Help Leave Common Cold Behind
FDA Bans Unapproved Prescription Cough, Cold and Allergy Meds
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
Polyunsaturated Fats Really May Lower Heart Risk
Fewer Heart Attacks After England Goes Smoke-Free
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Help Your Kids Stay Active
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
MEN'S HEALTH
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
Any Old Cane Won't Do
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
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Ginkgo No Shield Against Alzheimer's

TUESDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Although commonly taken to improve memory, new research suggests that the herb ginkgo biloba won't help prevent dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

"We found that giving a standardized dose of ginkgo biloba over a period of time does not slow down the incidence rate of dementia or Alzheimer's disease," said the study's lead author, Dr. Steven DeKosky, who was chair of the department of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Medical Center at the time of the study.

The findings were published in the Nov. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, currently affects about 5 million people in the United States, according to background information in the article. Dementia is a significant cause of age-related disability and the need for long-term nursing home care, the study reported.

There are currently no medications that have been approved for the primary prevention of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. However, previous small, short-term clinical trials have suggested there might be a small benefit from ginkgo for people with dementia. Sales of ginkgo biloba are almost $250 million each year in the United States, according to the study.

The current study included almost 3,100 community-dwelling adults aged 75 or older. Most had normal cognition at the start of the study, while 482 had mild cognitive impairment when the study began.

The study volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either a twice-daily dose of 120 milligrams of ginkgo biloba extract or a twice-daily placebo. The study participants were assessed for signs of dementia every six months, and the average length of study participation was just over six years.

During the study period, 523 people developed dementia, and 92 percent of those cases were classified as possible or probable Alzheimer's disease.

Overall, the dementia rate for those taking ginkgo was 3.3 per 100 person-years of follow-up versus 2.9 per 100 person-years for the placebo group.

"If you're in your 70s or 80s, and you're contemplating taking ginkgo to prevent Alzheimer's or dementia, the idea that it can prevent these is not true," said DeKosky, who is vice president and dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville.

But, said DeKosky, the good news from this study is that there appear to be "no major problems for safety" where ginkgo is concerned.

One representative of the botanicals industry took issue with the findings.

"There is an significant body of scientific and clinical evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of ginkgo extract for both cognitive function and improved circulation," said Mark Blumenthal, the founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council.

He also cited what he considered shortcomings with the Pittsburgh study, including a relatively short follow-up period, and the lack of a comparison treatment (there is currently no treatment that prevents or curbs dementia). Blumenthal also noted that 60 percent of participants stopped taking gingko by the end of the study, potentially lending uncertainty to the results.

However, the author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal, Dr. Lon Schneider, director of the State of California Alzheimer's Disease Research and Clinical Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, pointed out that for people with a history of cardiovascular disease, there was an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke in the group taking ginkgo, though the difference didn't reach statistical significance. Eight people in the placebo compared to 16 in the ginkgo group had a hemorrhagic stroke, Schneider noted.

He also pointed out that at least one smaller trial found an increased risk of the more common type of stroke, ischemic stroke, and transient ischemic attacks, in people taking ginkgo.

"In the absence of efficacy, people should be fairly careful about taking a drug anyway, and here, we've seen no evidence for potential gain, and there's some reason to be concerned about its use in the long term," said Schneider.

-Serena Gordon

More information

There's more on gingko biloba at the University of Maryland Medical Center.



SOURCES: Steven T. DeKosky, M.D., vice president and dean, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Va.; Lon S. Schneider, M.D., director, State of California Alzheimer's Disease Research and Clinical Center at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; news release, Nov. 18. 2008, American Botanical Council; Nov. 19, 2008, Journal of the American Medical Association

Last Updated: Nov. 18, 2008

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