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New Study on Ginkgo Should Be Evaluated in Scientific Context

Judy Blatman
Council for Responsible Nutrition
Telephone: 1-202-263-1005
Posted: 8/21/2002

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 -- The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), in response to a new study to be published Aug. 21 on ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba L.) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), urged consumers to judge the results in the context of the very large body of clinical evidence on this well-studied botanical.

"This study should not be viewed as the definitive word on the subject, but simply one more addition to an extensive amount of scientific information, much of it positive, on ginkgo," said John Cardellina, Ph.D., vice president, botanical science and regulatory affairs, CRN. "This study adds to our body of knowledge, but is certainly not the final word on the subject."

Ginkgo is one of the most clinically studied of all the botanicals in the marketplace. More than 120 clinical studies of ginkgo have been conducted to date, the majority focused on memory and cognitive function in elderly patients with modestly impaired mental function. Most of the studies show significant, demonstrable benefit.

An Expert Review of the Safety and Benefits of Botanicals, a new report to be issued in the fall by CRN and the American Botanical Council (ABC), includes an evaluation of the clinical evidence accrued to date for ginkgo. The panel of 11 experts, spanning a wide range of scientific and medical expertise, found that there was clear evidence of benefit from ginkgo for memory and cognitive function in adults with early stage mental impairment and in cases of peripheral vascular disease (intermittent claudication).

The evidence for benefit in cognitive function and memory in unimpaired adult populations is mixed, with some trials showing benefit and others, like this latest study, showing none.

According to Jerry Cott, Ph.D., a psychopharmacologist and a member of the expert panel, "This is clearly an area that would benefit from additional, carefully designed research. As new studies are developed, three factors should be strongly considered in the study design: first, the size of the population to be studied, so that results have statistical significance for the effects to be measured. For example, a study of normal elderly is really a population study requiring many thousands of subjects over several years, whereas a study of mild cognitive impairment could be accomplished with a more reasonable number of subjects in a shorter period of time. The second factor is the specific effects to be measured and the means to measure them accurately, and the third is the dose or dose range to be investigated to achieve the sought-after effects."

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) is one of the dietary supplement industry's leading trade associations representing ingredient suppliers and manufacturers.

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