Gingko Biloba Shown to Not Help Cognitive Issues in MS

PORTLAND, OR – It might be a case of wishful thinking, but many multiple sclerosis patients use the natural supplement Gingko biloba in hopes that it will help counteract the cognitive problems that appear in half of those with the debilitating disease.

A small 2005 pilot study bolstered that optimism by suggesting the supplement might improve attention.

A more extensive new study, however, has dashed those hopes. The recent report in the journal Neurology says Gingko biloba does not improve cognitive performance in MS sufferers, based on a follow-up with patients at the Portland and Seattle VAMCs.1

“It’s important for scientists to continue to analyze what might help people with cognitive issues relating to their MS,” said Jesus Lovera, MD, the study’s lead author, formerly with the Portland VA and Oregon Health & Science University’s Department of Neurology but now at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Baton Rouge.

“We wanted to follow up on the earlier findings that suggested there may be some benefit,” he explained in a press release. “But we believe this larger study settles the question: Gingko simply doesn’t improve cognitive performance with MS patients.”

Dennis Bourdette, MD, study co-author and co-director of the VA MS Center of Excellence-West, said the most common cognitive problems in MS relate to memory, attention and concentration, and information processing.

The 2005 study, which Lovera also led, included 39 participants who were given Gingko biloba or a placebo. The new study included 120 participants given Gingko or a placebo.

1. Lovera JF, Kim E, Heriza E, Fitzpatrick M, et. al. Ginkgo biloba does not improve cognitive function in MS: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Neurology. 2012 Sep 18;79(12):1278-84. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31826aac60. Epub 2012 Sep 5. PubMed PMID: 22955125; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3440446.

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