90 is the New 60



A new public health study finds that today’s nonagenarians enjoy much better health than their predecessors.


 

90 IS THE NEW 60

As I discuss in my book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, we are rapidly growing older as a population.  As our population continues to age, a record number of men and women are now surviving into their ninth and tenth decades of life.  Unfortunately, though, super-elderly men and women are highly prone to significant physical and cognitive frailty.  However, a fascinating new public health study from Denmark suggests that today’s nonagenarians (people who are in their 90s) may be far healthier, both physically and mentally, than their predecessors.  This public health study appears in the current issue of the journal The Lancet.

In this study, 2,262 men and women born in 1905, and aged 93, were compared with a second group of research volunteers.  The second group of volunteers consisted of 1,584 men and women born in 1915, all of whom were 95 years old.  Both groups of research volunteers underwent testing of both their physical fitness levels and their cognitive (brain) function levels.  The findings of this study were quite intriguing.

One interesting finding of this innovative study was that men and women born in 1915 had a 28 percent greater chance of surviving to age 93 than people born just 10 years earlier (i.e., in 1905), while the likelihood of reaching one’s 95th birthday was 32 percent higher for folks born in 1915 compared to those born in 1905.

Another interesting finding was that the 95 year-old volunteers born in 1915 scored significantly higher on cognitive (brain) function tests than the younger (93 year-old) volunteers born in 1905.

While the group of volunteers born in 1905 had similar levels of physical fitness as the volunteers born in 1915, the 95 year-old volunteers born in 1915 reported higher levels of daily physical activity at home when compared with their 93 year-old counterparts born in 1905.

In view of concerns about the frailty that often comes with advanced age, the findings of this study offer hope that future super-elderly senior citizens may enjoy a much higher level of both physical and cognitive function than their predecessors.  As our population continues to grow ever older, the findings of this study may prove to be of considerable importance.

 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!


Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.


Join Dr. Wascher on Facebook


Additional Links for Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS

New Facebook Page for Doc Wascher Music

New Instrumental Rock by Dr. Wascher (Facebook)

Facebook Page for A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race

CNN Story on CTCA’s Organic Farm in the Phoenix Area

Dr. Wascher Discusses Signs & Symptoms of Skin Cancer

Profile of Dr. Wascher by Oncology Times

Bio of Dr. Wascher at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Dr. Wascher Discusses Predictions of Decreased Cancer Risk on azfamily.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Environmental Risk Factors for Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Answers Questions About Cancer on talkabouthealth.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Cancer Prevention Strategies on LIVESTRONG

Dr. Wascher Discusses Cancer Prevention on Newsmax

Dr. Wascher Answers Questions About Cancer Risk & Cancer Prevention on The Doctors Radio Show

Dr. Wascher Discusses Lymphedema After Breast Surgery on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer Risk on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Chronic Pain After Mastectomy for Breast Cancer on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Cancer on cancersupportivecare.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Exercise in Cancer Prevention on Open Salon

Dr. Wascher Discusses Aspirin as a Potential Preventive Agent for Pancreatic Cancer on eHealth Forum

Dr. Wascher Discusses Obesity & Cancer Risk on eHealth Forum

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Radiation Therapy in the Treatment of Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Treatment of Stomach Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Management of Metastatic Cancer of the Liver on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses Obesity & Cancer Risk on hopenavigators.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer Risk on interactmd.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Thyroid Cancer on health2fit.com

 

Links to Other Breaking Health News

Child Obesity Rates Fall for the First Time

New Teeth Grown from Urine

HPV Virus Newly Linked to One-Third of All Oral Cancer Cases

FDA Approves New Brain Scan to Assess for ADHD in Kids

Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Among Middle-Aged Women

Man Loses 155 Pounds

Naked Mole Rat May Provide Important Cancer Prevention Clue

The Effects of Poverty on the Brain

Half of Us Will Develop Cancer in Our Lifetimes

Protein Critical for Long-Term Memory Identified

HPV Virus and Cancer Risk

Probiotics May Decrease Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea caused by C. difficile

3-D Printer Helps to Save Baby’s Life

Experimental Drug May Reduce Heart Damage after Heart Attack

Vitamin D May Improve Asthma Symptoms

Doctor Provides Patients with Own Feces for Fecal Transplants

Rising Arsenic Levels in Chicken

Dramatic Increase in Suicide Rate Among Middle Aged Americans Over the Past Decade

Cutting Umbilical Cord Too Soon May Cause Anemia in Newborns

Spiny New Bandage May Speed Healing of Skin Wounds

Study Confirms that Men Really Do Have Trouble Reading the Thoughts of Women

Deadly new Bird Flu Strain Cases Continue to Rise

Abdominal Fat Increases Kidney Disease Risk

Increasing Dietary Potassium & Decreasing Salt Intake Reduces Stroke Risk

A New Explanation for the Link Between Red Meat & Cardiovascular Disease

Deadly New Bird Flu Identified in China

Infection Risk: Keeping an Eye on Your Dentist

Couple Loses 500 Pounds in Two Years

Coffee May Reduce Crash Risk for Long-Distance Drivers

Tiny Implant Tells Your Smart Phone When You Are Having A Heart Attack

Transplanted Kidney Causes Death Due to Rabies

Eating While Distracted Increases Calorie Intake

Resistant Bacteria are on the Rise

High Levels of Stress Linked to an Increase in Heart Disease Risk

Small Snacks Cut Hunger as Well as Big Snacks

Poor Sleep May Increase the Risk of Heart Failure

Ancient Mummies Found to Have Heart Disease by CT Scan

Physically Fit Kids Do Better on Math & Reading Tests

How Melanoma Skin Cancer Evades the Immune System

Possible Link Between BPA and Asthma

Baby Boomers Appear Less Healthy Than Their Parents

The Biology of Love in the Brain

Millennials May be the Most Stressed-Out Generation

Even Modest Alcohol Intake Raises Cancer Risk

Why Do Boys Receive Lower Grades than Girls?

Negative Emotions and Feelings Can Damage Your Health

Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed


 


Dr. Wascher’s Home Page



According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, 3.5 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


Bookmark and Share





































Post to Twitter

Fitness in Middle Age Lowers Dementia Risk



A new study finds that being physically fit in middle age may protect against Alzheimer’s disease later in life.


 

 

FITNESS IN MIDDLE AGE LOWERS DEMENTIA RISK

The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are predicted to rise significantly as our population continues to age.  At the present time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and most other forms of dementia.

While the primary cause (or causes) of Alzheimer’s disease remains unclear at this time, it is clear that advancing age, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels all appear to be linked with this debilitating and irreversible form of dementia.  At the same time, it is also well known that regular exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated high cholesterol levels.  Now, a newly published research study, which appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine, strongly suggests that being physically fit during mid-life may also help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life.

In this study, 19,458 middle-aged adults were assessed for their level of physical fitness between 1971 and 2009.  After an average of 25 years of follow-up, 1,659 of these research volunteers went on to be diagnosed with dementia. When researchers correlated levels of physical fitness during mid-life with the incidence of dementia later in life, they found that higher levels of physical fitness in middle age appeared to be protective against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life.  In fact, the research volunteers with the highest levels of physical fitness during their middle age years were 36 percent less likely to develop dementia during the course of this study, when compared with volunteers who were at the lowest levels of physical fitness during mid-life.

In addition to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, the findings of this newly published clinical study strongly suggest that regular exercise during middle age is also associated with a significant reduction in the risk of developing dementia later in life.  In view of the many health benefits associated with regular exercise, if you are not currently getting 3 to 4 hours of at least moderate exercise per week, then please see your physician and a personal trainer, and begin your own personal exercise program!


Links to Other Breaking Health News

Horse Meat Scandal Rocks Britain

Why Do Boys Receive Lower Grades than Girls?

Negative Emotions and Feelings Can Damage Your Health

Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Growing Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Thousands of Surgery Mistakes Are Still Happening Each Year

New Graphic Antismoking Ads Debut in England

Kids with Food Allergies May Become Targets of Bullies

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Tamoxifen for 10 Years (Instead of 5 Years) Significantly Improves Breast Cancer Survival Rate

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 

 

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.5 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


Bookmark and Share





































Post to Twitter

Speaking Two Languages Improves Brain Function Late in Life



A new study shows that speaking at least two languages improves brain function later in life.


 

 

 

SPEAKING TWO LANGUAGES IMPROVES BRAIN FUNCTION LATE IN LIFE

Although there are an estimated 6,000 distinct languages spoken on the planet, only about 1 in 4 countries officially identify themselves as bilingual or multilingual nations.  However, there are more people in the world who speak at least two languages than there are people who speak only one language.  Therefore, the majority of humankind can be thought of as generally being bilingual or multilingual.

Based upon previously published cognitive studies, being bilingual or multilingual appears to “strengthen” the areas of the brain that are involved in both language processing and other higher cognitive functions.  Indeed, based upon these prior studies, lifelong multilingual people appear to experience a later onset of cognitive decline in life, and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, compared to monolingual people.  Now, a newly published research study, which appears in the Journal of Neuroscience, provides fascinating new insights into exactly how bilingualism and multilingualism may help to preserve cognitive function in the brain as we age.

In this study, 110 older monolingual and bilingual adults participated in several “task-switching” exercises that test cognitive function.  Using a sophisticated imaging system that measures blood flow within specific areas of the brain (functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI), these monolingual and bilingual study volunteers were put through their paces with various task-switching exercises while their brain function was monitored by fMRI.

Among the monolingual older adults, areas of the brain associated with the processing of information, and with decision-making, were highly activated during task-switching exercises, indicating that these areas of the brain were working very hard to complete the tasks assigned by the researchers.  The bilingual older adults also experienced increased activity in the left lateral frontal cortex and cingulate cortex, but significantly less so than the monolingual study volunteers.  At the same time, the bilingual volunteers consistently outperformed their monolingual fellow volunteers on the task-switching exercises, despite lower levels of activation of these two key areas of the brain.  Thus, just as has been predicted by previous cognitive testing studies, lifelong bilingualism does indeed appear to increase the efficiency of the areas of the brain that are involved in high-level cognitive processing, and also appear to decrease the rate of loss of these cognitive abilities with advancing age, when compared to monolingualism.  In this clinical study, the bilingual older adults were more successful in completing task-switching cognitive exercises than monolingual older adults; and at the same time, the brains of the bilingual adults accomplished this improved cognitive performance with less effort than their monolingual counterparts (based upon fMRI measurements of brain activity).

While there are many potential personal, professional, social and cultural benefits to speaking more than one language, this elegant clinical research study confirms earlier predictions that lifelong bilingualism and multilingualism may help to preserve the cognitive efficiency and function of the higher processing centers of the brain much later in life.  Given at least the perception that the United States lags behind many other countries in the world in the area of foreign language education, the findings of this new study offer yet another reason for schools in the US to ramp up their foreign language programs.  We live in an increasingly competitive, globalized and multilingual world, and preparing our children for a successful future in that world should include early and continuous exposure to foreign language training, in my view.

 

Links to Other Breaking Health News

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Flu Cases Surge in US, Especially Among the Unvaccinated

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Growing Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Thousands of Surgery Mistakes Are Still Happening Each Year

New Graphic Antismoking Ads Debut in England

Kids with Food Allergies May Become Targets of Bullies

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Tamoxifen for 10 Years (Instead of 5 Years) Significantly Improves Breast Cancer Survival Rate

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods


 

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


Bookmark and Share





































Post to Twitter

Vitamin D Reduces Risk of Cognitive Decline & Dementia

 

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”


VITAMIN D REDUCES RISK OF COGNITIVE DECLINE & DEMENTIA

Regular readers of this column are already well aware of the preventive effects of Vitamin D with respect to falls in the elderly, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease.  (My new book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” which is scheduled to be published in August, 2010, contains an exciting and comprehensive update on the role of Vitamin D in cancer prevention.)  Now, a newly published research study, which appears in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, has linked low Vitamin D levels in the blood with an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia in adults over the age of 65.

A total of 858 adults at or over the age of 65 participated in this prospective public health study, which was conducted over a period of 7 years.  All of these study volunteers underwent extensive evaluation of their cognitive function, using validated, standardized tests, when they entered into the study.  All patients also underwent testing of their blood for Vitamin D levels.  This extensive evaluation and testing was then repeated every 3 years during the course of this important clinical research study.

The results of this study indicated that patient volunteers with low Vitamin D levels in the blood (less than 25 nmol/liter), when compared with volunteers with normal blood levels of Vitamin D (75 nmol/liter, or higher), experienced significant declines in their intellectual function over the course of this study.  Indeed, the patient volunteers with decreased Vitamin D levels in their blood were as much as 60 percent more likely to experience progressive cognitive decline or dementia over the relatively brief duration of this study, when compared with the patients who had normal levels of Vitamin D in their blood! 

The results of this study are very similar to the findings of a similar study, which has just been published in the journal Neurology.  In this particular study, an inadequate level of Vitamin D in the blood of elderly men and women was associated with a significantly increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia from all causes, including Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.  Moreover, abnormalities of the brain, as detected by MRI scans, were also more commonly observed in patients who were deficient in Vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common in older men and women.  An estimated 80 percent of people over the age of 65 have inadequate levels of Vitamin D in their blood, while as many as 45 percent of older men and women also have severe Vitamin D deficiency.

 

The results of these two studies strongly suggest that adequate levels of Vitamin D in the blood may be associated with a significantly reduced risk of aging-associated cognitive decline and dementia in older men and women, in addition to improving muscle strength, decreasing the risk of certain cancers, and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

 

Not everyone should take large doses of Vitamin D, however, as the unmonitored use of this potent hormone-like vitamin can cause dangerous elevations in the level of calcium in the blood, as well as calcifications in the soft tissues of the body, kidney failure, pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal ulcers.  (Prior to starting Vitamin D supplements, you should certainly discuss the risks and benefits of Vitamin D supplementation with your physician.)

 

To learn more about the critical role of Vitamin D and the risk of cancer, look for the publication of my new landmark book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” in the August of this year. 



Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-Tdv7XW0qg



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 new and returning readers who visit our premier global health information website every month.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.



 

Bookmark and Share



 

Post to Twitter

Ginkgo Biloba, Memory & Cognitive Health

Welcome to Weekly Health Update



 

“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”


GINKGO BILOBA, MEMORY & COGNITIVE HEALTH

 

 

Regular readers of this column know that I have a strong interest in lifestyle- and diet-based approaches to disease prevention, but that I insist on rigorous, high-quality research-based data before I can recommend a particular lifestyle or dietary modification to my readers (or to myself).  Many past columns have reviewed the findings of research studies with favorable results associated with specific nutritional or other lifestyle approaches to disease prevention.  However, this week’s column will report on a newly published prospective clinical research trial that calls into question the supposed clinical value of the traditional Chinese medicine herb Ginkgo biloba in reducing the cognitive decline associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Previously published public health research data, based upon low-powered research methods, have suggested that dietary supplementation with Ginkgo biloba might be able to improve memory and cognition, particularly in older adults.  However, more recent data, based upon more robust types of clinical research, have called this assumption into question (as well as previous claims that Gingko biloba can delay or reverse the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease).  Now, a newly published prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of Gingko biloba supplementation in older adults in the United States appears to have definitively resolved the controversy about the value of Gingko biloba in maintaining memory, and other high level cognitive functions, in older adults. 

 

 

Ginkgo biloba trees are often referred to as living fossils, as they are known to survive for 1,500 years or more, and their presence has been documented within fossil-bearing rocks more than 270 million years old.  Although ancient fossils containing the distinctive bilobed leaves of Ginkgo biloba trees have been found on multiple continents, modern day Gingko trees now grow naturally only in China (although they have been widely cultivated, over a period of centuries, throughout Asia, and particularly in Japan and Korea).    

 

A new highly-powered prospective clinical research trial evaluating Ginkgo biloba supplementation appears in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.  More than 3,000 adults between the ages of 72 and 96 years participated in this placebo-controlled research trial, with an impressive average patient follow-up duration of more than 6 years.  These patient volunteers were secretly randomized to one of two groups.  The patients in the “experimental group” received 120 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract twice daily during the course of this study, while the “control group” of patients received an identical-appearing placebo (“sugar pills) twice daily.  (As this was a double-blind study, neither the patient volunteers nor the researchers knew which patients were receiving Gingko pills and which were receiving the placebo pills until after the research study was completed.) 

 

Multiple validated cognitive screening exams were given to all of these older patient volunteers during each year of the study, and the rate of annual decline in cognitive function was then compared between the two groups of patient volunteers.  Areas of cognitive function that were specifically tested for in this high-powered prospective clinical research trial included memory, attention, visual-spatial abilities, language function, and overall executive brain function.  (Note: these same cognitive function tests are also routinely utilized to assess cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.)

 

Unfortunately, there was absolutely no difference observed or measured in the rate of decline in cognitive function between the two groups of older patient volunteers, indicating the lack of any clinically detectable benefit in age-related cognitive decline associated with high-dose supplementation with Ginkgo biloba.

 

(As an editorial aside, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is to be commended for publishing this rigorously performed clinical research trial and its Level One research findings, as there is a well-known bias against publishing clinical research studies with “negative findings,” such as this study, among prestigious medical journals.)

 

 

Although this is the second recent high-level prospective clinical research trial that has found absolutely no clinical benefit in preserving or improving cognitive function in older adults associated with Ginkgo biloba supplements, there may still be potential clinical applications for this ancient herbal remedy in view of its known ability to improve blood flow through networks of small blood vessels in the body.  There is also some research evidence available suggesting that Ginkgo biloba may have potentially important anti-inflammatory properties, and that these properties might be clinically useful in some chronic inflammatory diseases, such as ulcerative colitis (Ginkgo biloba, ulcerative colitis & colorectal cancer).  For now, however, the overwhelming available clinical research evidence indicates that Ginkgo biloba appears to offer no benefit to older patients in terms of either preserving or improving memory, or in improving other areas of higher cognitive function.

 


Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

Bookmark and Share


Post to Twitter

Enter Google AdSense Code Here

Comments

Better Tag Cloud