Prevent dementia: Ginkgo is probably ineffective

As memory declines with age, sufferers often ask themselves if dementia like Alzheimer's is on the way and what can be done about it.

There is a whole range of products on the Internet aimed at strengthening memory. These include products containing extract from the Ginkgo biloba plant.

A reader wanted to know from us if these can actually protect against Alzheimer's or other dementias, as some websites claim. That is why we searched for studies that examined this question.

Ginkgo biloba probably does not protect against dementia

We actually found large, well-done studies on this. A total of more than 5,000 people over the age of 70 participated, all of whom were mentally healthy at the start of the study. [Quellen 1,2,4]. Half of them took ginkgo extract, the other half a placebo.

However, the results were negative: At five or more years, a similar number of participants with ginkgo developed dementia as with placebo. Ginkgo cannot prevent dementia. As there are still unanswered questions, our assessment is not entirely certain (see Sect Studies in detail)

Ambiguous help with existing memory problems

Two studies have also examined whether ginkgo can prevent pre-existing memory problems from progressing to dementia [Quelle 1]. However, two studies conducted on people over 60 years of age yielded conflicting results. It is unclear whether ginkgo can help older adults who already have mild problems with memory and mental performance.

There is only anecdotal evidence that ginkgo is effective in people already diagnosed with dementia (see our fact check). However, the effect may be temporary and not well preserved.

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Ginkgo products can also cause side effects. We have described these in a reality trial of dementia treatment that has already occurred.

What protects against dementia?

If you often forget something as you get older, it's not easy to judge whether this is still normal — or a sign of depression. Sometimes memory problems are a symptom of what's called mild cognitive impairment, which can progress over time to dementia like Alzheimer's. However, there are other causes of forgetfulness, such as depression, thyroid problems, or vitamin B12 deficiency. Medical examination will clarify here [Quellen 5,6].

Several research groups have tried to find out what can protect against dementia. As our research on various remedies shows, there does not seem to be a miracle cure: spermidine, multivitamin preparations, thyme, bacopa, orange juice, turmeric or coffee.

Getting enough exercise, being mentally active and connecting with others can reduce your risk of dementia. However, how large the protective effect of all this really is has not been adequately studied [Quelle 7]. More information on preventing Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia can be found on pages Gesundheitsinformation.de And Gesundheit.gv.at.

According to statistics, older people with memory problems have a slightly higher risk of developing dementia later in life. However, this is by no means the case for all sufferers [Quelle 8].

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