November 20th, 2008
01:35 PM ET

Five ways to keep Alzheimer's away

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Elizabeth Cohen | BIO
CNN Medical Correspondent

Blanche Danick may be 86 years old, but she's pretty hip. She keeps up with all the latest health news, and a while back, she called her daughter wanting to know whether she should start taking the herb ginkgo biloba. She'd heard it might stave off Alzheimer's disease.

"I told her not to bother, that it wouldn't make much of a difference," says her daughter, Edythe London, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "On the basis of what I've read, I don't think it staves off dementia."

London's advice makes a lot of sense, according to a study out this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Ginkgo is a top-selling herb and has been hailed by some as a memory-booster, but the new University of Pittsburgh study found it didn't help prevent Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia in more than 3,000 elderly study subjects.

Ginkgo manufacturers say this isn't the first - or the last - word on the herb. "There is a significant body of scientific and clinical evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of ginkgo extract for both cognitive function and improved circulation," said Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council.

London's still skeptical. "But I do tell my mother there are other things she can do," says London, who's studied the brain and aging. "I tell her to go out and do things and see people every day and be active." Studies have shown that physical exercise, the kind that keeps the heart healthy, also keeps the brain healthy, according to the National Institutes of Health's Cognitive and Emotional Health Project.


Filed under: Elizabeth Cohen • Medical News
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    Good advice. Though I am skeptical on the Gynko study, since I have been an daily user of Echinacea and that herb has kept the flu away for several years in a row. They also did a study of Echinacea, which 'they' say does not help. I suspect that the drug companies do not want herbs to help, since then they could not make billions from us, sheep.

    November 20, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  2. Max

    Don't get stressed out????

    Change your GENES????

    November 20, 2008 at 3:37 pm |