The popular herbal supplement ginkgo biloba does not appear to prevent heart attacks, stroke or death among people aged 75 and older, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh.
Ginkgo contains antioxidant phytonutrients called flavonoids, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine, leading researchers to believe it would offer some protection against cardiovascular events.
For this current study, 3,069 people were randomly assigned to 120 milligrams of purified ginkgo biloba or a placebo, twice a day as part of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study.
Over the six years of the trial, 385 participants died, 164 had heart attacks, 151 had strokes, 73 had mini-strokes ("transient ischemic attacks") and 207 had chest pain.
There was no significant difference between those taking ginkgo or placebo for any of the heart disease-related event reported above.
However, among the 35 people who developed peripheral artery disease, 23 were taking the placebo while 12 were taking ginkgo. This significant difference supports a link between this herb and prevention of peripheral artery disease.
Peripheral artery disease is narrowing or blockage of arteries that results in poor blood flow to your arms and legs. Common symptoms include painful cramps in the legs during walking or other daily physical activities.
Previous research has linked this herbal remedy to improved leg circulation in people with peripheral artery disease.
Researchers are unclear as to why ginkgo may improve peripheral artery disease but not heart disease. Like heart disease, peripheral artery is caused by buildup of plague inside the arteries in a process known as atherosclerosis.
This report was released online November 24 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Circulation.
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