Memory often begins to fail with age, but a new study from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that the herb Ginkgo biloba keeps aging memories sharp. In a six-month study, a group of older healthy adults improved their brain's speed in making connections by 68 percent.
"The results were impressive," said study leader John E. Lewis, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
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The randomized, double-blind study, which was published in the February issue of BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, examined two herbal combinations: One formula contained Ginkgo biloba leaf and a mixture of grape seed extract and other nutrients, another formula contained a mix of grape seed and green tea extract and other nutrients, and yet another was a placebo.
"We wanted to see whether these two combinations could help people who were older, but didn't have any diagnosed health conditions and no cognitive impairment," Dr. Lewis told Newsmax Health. "The youngest person was 58, and the oldest was 93."
Participants were asked to not take supplements for two weeks before the six-month study began. Extensive cognitive tests to measure memory were given three times: at the beginning of the study, at three months, and at six months. A blood test to gauge inflammation was also administered at the beginning of the study and at its end.
"The Ginkgo formula outperformed the grape seed extract formula and placebo," he said. "There was a marked difference." On tests that measured the ability of the brain to process information quickly, people on the Ginkgo formula improved 68 percent, while no improvement was noted on those taking the grape seed formula or placebo. On word association tests, those taking the Ginkgo formula improved 18 percent while those on the grape seed formula increased 11 percent. "Those are dramatic improvements," said Lewis.
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In addition, blood tests showed that those taking the Ginkgo formula experienced a reduction in the amount of epidermal growth factor (EGF), which decreased by 57 percent. EGF stimulates cell growth and is thought to be involved in the formation of cancerous tumors.
Lewis says that although the study's results were impressive, they would have possibly been even more dramatic if the participants hadn't been in such good health. "Our participants were highly educated, mostly affluent, and were already functioning on a high level," he said. "They were healthy, and 80 percent of them took supplements. If the brain is already functioning well, how much room is there for improvement? A less-educated, less-nourished group would probably have produced even more dramatic results."
In the study, the Ginkgo group used Standard Process's Ginkgo Synergy (two capsules a day) plus four daily capsules of choline (a micronutrient similar to B vitamins). The second group took Standard Process's OPC Synergy (two capsules a day) plus four capsules of Catalyn (a supplement containing nutrients from whole food sources), and the third group took a placebo.
In addition to the improvements shown in testing, people who took the Ginkgo formula reported positive changes to the researchers. "People in the study were telling us that they were thinking more clearly," said Lewis. "It turned out that those people were actually taking Ginkgo and not on placebo."
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