In a story that describes another study raising doubts about this product’s value, there was as much attention given to the remaining true believers as there was to the skeptical evidence.
Many people (estimates of ~$100 million in annual US sales) buy this stuff. Evaluating the evidence about it is not only a health issue but a consumer protection issue.
There was no mention of how much ginkgo biloba products cost. Even an NBC story, with limited broadcast time, mentioned that Americans spend more than $100 million on a year on these products. A USA Today story said US sales were $99 million in 2008. But what does it cost the individual?
The story stated that the researchers found no evidence that ginkgo delayed or prevented cognitive declines.
The story stated that the study found that ginkgo was safe and no serious side effects were noted. But it could have noted that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that "Side effects of ginkgo may include headache, nausea, gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, dizziness, or allergic skin reactions. More severe allergic reactions have occasionally been reported."
The story did an adequate job explaining the study. But it allowed the American Botanical Council exec to complain about limitations in the study without having the authors or anyone else specifically address those claims point by point. This introduced an imbalance that readers may have found very confusing.
There was no exaggeration of the problem of cognitive decline.
Yes, the story sought out different perspectives. But oddly, despite the mounting negative evidence, it afforded more space (265 words) to those defending ginkgo biloba than it did to those discussing the evidence raising huge questions about its value (249 words). He said/she said science journalism doesn’t serve anyone well.
In a story based on a study that pokes holes in some peoples’ beliefs about a product to prevent cognitive decline, there could have been at least one line about other research into cognitive decline.
It’s clear from the story that ginkgo biloba is used widely.
The novelty of these products is not in question.
Quotes from two of the sources – both defending ginkgo bliloba – were apparently taken from news releases. With the evidence stacking up against this product, why depend on canned responses to continue to breathe life into these product claims?