Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ginkgo and placebo stories

Two news stories I read today about recent research.

In the first they found evidence that Ginkgo biloba extracts protected the memory of people 85 and older. The three-year study involved 118 people age 85 and older with no memory problems. Half of the participants took Ginkgo biloba extract three times a day and half took a placebo. During the study, 21 people developed mild memory problems, or questionable dementia: 14 of those took the placebo and seven took the ginkgo extract.

Once they controlled for patients who did not reliably take the pills they found a significant effect. However
people taking Ginkgo biloba were more likely to have a stroke than those taking the placebo. Seven people taking ginkgo had strokes, while none of those taking placebo did.

And speaking of placebos. The LA times reported on research showing that placebos work better if they cost more. Test subjects were given a placebo they were told was a powerful pain medication. Half of the subjects were told the medicine cost $2.50 a pill while half thought it cost 10c. 85% of those receiving the 'higher priced' pill reported feeling less pain from an electric shock after taking the pills versus 61% of those getting the 'cheaper' pills.

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