ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Scientists Discover How Osteoarthritis Destroys Cartilage
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Human Ancestors Put Best Foot Forward 1.5M Years Ago
CANCER
Smokeout '08: The Perfect Time to Quit
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Study Cites Gains in Gall Bladder Cancer Treatment
CAREGIVING
TV Watching Doesn't Fast-Track Baby's Skills
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
Babies Born in High Pollen Months at Wheezing Risk
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Holistic Dentistry-My View
DIABETES
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating Healthy : You Can Live Longer
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
Vitamin D Vital for the Heart
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Bed Bugs Bring No Disease Danger
Pesticides on Produce Tied to ADHD in Children
Topical Drugs May Pollute Waterways
EYE CARE, VISION
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
Hybrid Cars Pose Risk to Blind, Visually Impaired
Kids Who Spend More Time Outdoors Have Better Vision
FITNESS
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Sun, Smoke, Extra Weight Add Years to Skin
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Too-Low Blood Pressure Can Also Bring Danger
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Polyunsaturated Fats Really May Lower Heart Risk
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Music May Temper Pain in Preemies
3 Home Habits Help Youngsters Stay Slim
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
The Unmedicated Mind
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
SENIORS
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
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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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