If elderly people took ginkgo daily their chances of death would decrease, researchers from the French Université de Bordeaux found when they followed a group of 3500 elderly people for a period of 13 years. The researchers were looking for the effects of medication against dementia.
So they tested 3534 elderly people in south-west France from 1988 to the beginning of the 21st century. Of these, 225 used ginkgo, and 888 used medication to slow down the decline of mental abilities. The researchers found that those who used medication as well as ginkgo were slightly more likely to have dementia then those not using anything.
That does not mean that the elderly people were suffering from dementia because they were using these substances. It was the other way around: because these elderly people were suffering from symptoms of deterioration of their mental abilities, they used medication more often.
The table above shows the chances of dementia, the 95 percent confidence interval and the P-Value in the three groups. We will spare you the statistical mumbo-jumbo, but the results are not very shocking.
However the effect of ginkgo on the chance of death is spectacular. The chance of ginkgo users dying in the 13 years of the study was 46 percent. The chance of users of medication against dementia dying in those 13 years was 62 percent. For non-users the chance of death was 50 percent.
The researchers themselves can hardly believe it, but it looks like ginkgo is prolonging life.
“These results should be interpreted with caution”, the researchers write, “because the beneficial effect associated with Ginkgo biloba is related to a medication that is not given at random, and the observed effect on survival was unexpected. Nevertheless, it cannot be excluded that Ginkgo biloba may have a beneficial effect on survival in the elderly population.”
Vasodilators and nootropics as predictors of dementia and mortality in the PAQUID cohort.
To assess the effects of treatment for memory impairment and the Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) on dementia, mortality, and survival without dementia.
Three thousand five hundred thirty-four subjects aged 65 and older.
Information on drug consumption was obtained by interview and visual assessment of patients’ medicine chests. Active screening of dementia was performed every 2 years over a 13-year period. The independent effects of treatment for memory impairment and the Ginkgo biloba extract on the risks of dementia and death were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models, adjusted for potentially confounding factors (including comorbidities).
The initial consumption of Ginkgo biloba did not modify the risk of dementia (relative risk (RR)=1.16, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.84-1.60), whereas the consumption of other treatments for memory impairment was associated with a higher risk of dementia (RR=1.35, 95% CI=1.11-1.63). Subjects who took Ginkgo biloba had a significantly lower risk of mortality in the long term (RR=0.76, 95% CI=0.62-0.93), even after adjustment for potentially confounding factors. The initial consumption of treatment for memory impairment other than Ginkgo biloba did not modify the risk of mortality.
These results suggest that treatment with EGb 761 may increase the probability of survival in the elderly population. These findings need to be corroborated and further assessed using randomized, controlled trials.
PMID: 17341242 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]