Memory Test: Ginkgo trial will look at benefit for early dementia

UK Researchers at the Imperial College London and St Mary’s Hospital are set to explore the effectiveness of gingko as a treatment for early dementia. The study of 250 patients aged over 55 will seek to find out whether GPs can help patients by prescribing the supplement to those with memory loss, one of the early symptoms of dementia. It will be the first to test gingko as a treatment for those who are still living in the community and are being treated by their GP. Previous trials have concentrated on patients receiving hospital care, where the condition is often more advanced.

“We believe gingko may prove more effective if prescribed in a community setting, where patients’ symptoms are usually less severe,” says Dr James Warner, who is leading the study. “This trial will help us to find out whether with gingko it’s a case of ‘the sooner the better’, for patients who may benefit from taking it.”

Gingko is believed to cause blood vessels to dilate, improving blood flow to the brain, and to thin the blood, making it less likely to clot. It may also have antioxidant effects, protecting nerve cells against biological ‘rusting’. In Germany, gingko is of the top 10 prescription medicines for the treatment of circulatory problems.

It is estimated that 700,000 people in the United Kingdom are affected by the condition, 60% of whom are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients might occasionally misunderstand who or where they are, forget people’s names or how to get home.

Gingko could provide a cheaper alternative to conventional medicines, with fewer of the potential side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, tiredness and diarrhea.

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Aug 19, 2004