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Ginkgo fails to prevent Alzheimer’s in large study

Rating

5 Star

Ginkgo fails to prevent Alzheimer’s in large study

Our Review Summary

Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo), a botanical dietary supplement, is widely used by people hoping to improve memory and those who want to prevent or treat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  However, scientific research to prove these benefits has not been convincing.  Now the results of a research study, called the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study, have convincingly shown that ginkgo does not stop older people from developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  This article does an excellent job of reporting important details of the study in depth.  For example, it included that 3,000 people 75 and over who took the usual ‘dose’ of ginkgo (240 mg) each day were followed for 6 years. The piece was particularly strong in providing absolute differences, citing an array of sources, and providing context about the funding agency and how the results differed from prior studies. Well done. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

Yes, this story reported that a four month supply of ginkgo cost about $10.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

After reading this article there is no mistaking that ginkgo is not beneficial for preventing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. The absolute differences in outcomes between groups was reported.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

There has been concern in the medical community that ginkgo could increase the risk of blood clots and stroke.  This is of particular concern in people taking warfarin, a drug that is intended to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke.  Remarks from the lead investigator indicate that ginkgo appears to be relatively safe.  However, the investigator also notes that the new study could not definitively answer the question about risk of strokes.  Directly after these comments, the article explicitly states that people on warfarin should not take ginkgo.  This is not the case. However, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) indicate that caution should be exercised when taking warfarin and ginkgo.  But they do not definitively state that ginko should not be taken.  We’ll give the article a passing grade on this one.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

This story provided an in depth review of the new clinical evidence relating to the use of ginkgo.  For example, details of the study were reported in a manner that was easy to understand.  The reader was able to see the superior design of this new study compared to previous studies without this being explicitly presented in the article.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This story did not fail prey to disease mongering.  In fact, it accurately refuted disease mongering reports that are often found for the use of ginkgo as a memory aid.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

This article meets all of the criteria for providing good sources of information.  The source of the new research is given.  All potential differing opinions are presented through interviews with the lead investigator, a credible independent expert, and a representative of herbal products.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

This story did not mention that there are currently no treatments that can prevent dementia or improve mental abilities in people with mild cognitive impairment.   The story could have easily mentioned this.  It should have indicated that there are a few medications that can temporarily slow decline in a small number of people.  They should have also added clearly stated that unfortunate news that results from medication are minimal.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

This story accurately reported the widespread availability and use of ginkgo is in the U.S.  The story noted that annual sales of ginkgo are estimated to be more than $100 million dollars per year. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

This article does not pretend that ginkgo is a new treatment.  It indicates up front that it has long been promoted as a memory aid.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

This article did not rely on a press release.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory

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