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Dr. Oz Warns about Popular Memory Loss Supplement Cancer Risk

Tim Boyer's picture
Ginkgo Biloba Supplement

On a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Oz warns viewers that recent research from a study done by the National Toxicology Program has prompted The Center for Science in the Public Interest - a nonprofit health advocacy group - to send a letter of warning to the Food and Drug Administration's food safety office asking the agency to enact a recall of products containing the extract of the popular supplement Ginkgo Biloba.

According to the letter, the study found that:

“The NTP studies found ‘clear evidence’ that Ginkgo caused liver cancer in male and female mice and ‘some evidence’ that Ginkgo caused thyroid cancer in male and female rats. In the high-dose groups of mice, the ingredient was no border-line carcinogen: it caused hepatocellular carcinomas in 94 percent of male mice (compared to 44 percent of the controls) and 96 percent of female mice (compared to 34 percent of the controls). The ingredient may have caused other tumors as well.”

Ginkgo Biloba is a tree of which the leaves, nuts and seeds have been used for centuries as a natural health remedy for numerous ills. Over the past several years, Ginkgo Biloba has flooded the U.S. in numerous food and supplement products that promise enhanced cognition and concentration as well as an improved memory.

Today, Ginkgo Biloba is one of the most widely used herbal remedies in the world,” says Dr. Oz. “Millions of Americans use it to boost memory, increase concentration― even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Every year over 250 million dollars is spent on Ginkgo Biloba alone.”

Ginkgo Biloba as it turns out is ubiquitous in food products such as energy drinks and teas. According to the letter sent to the FDA, Ginkgo Biloba can be found in the following food products:

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• Rockstar varieties of energy drinks
• Hansen’s Energy Pro
• Guru
• Steven Segal’s Lightning Bolt
• Yogi Tea’s Ginkgo Clarity
• Salada “Brain Boost” green tea

Dr. Oz explains to viewers that the purported memory-boosting properties of Ginkgo Biloba are believed to be due to that when Ginkgo Biloba enters the blood stream, it increases blood perfusion to the brain which in turn enhances your ability to concentrate and to remember things. However, as Dr. Oz points out, all of this is purely theoretical and that there are no conclusive studies that show that this is true. Rather, that there are numerous conflicting studies that argues both for and against the theory that Ginkgo Biloba benefits the body.

With Dr. Oz was special guest Russell Greenfield, MD an Integrative Specialist at Chapel Hill School of Medicine who has looked at the research done on Ginkgo Biloba over the years and advises viewers that they should not be alarmed by news reports stating that Ginkgo Biloba may cause cancer. Dr. Greenfield pointed out that one problem with the cancer study done is that it is not the exact same source of Ginkgo Biloba that was typically used in previous studies and therefore that not enough is known yet to qualify Ginkgo Biloba as a cancer risk.

However, when asked by Dr. Oz whether he would prescribe Gingko Biloba to his own patients, Dr. Greenfield says that he would not due to there is no evidence that it will actually benefit people who are already generally healthy.

“I don’t think that we have enough data that Ginkgo can be helpful. For folks who are otherwise healthy, trying to improve their memory, stave off Alzheimer’s or dementia, increase their energy or all kinds of these things, we really don’t have a lot of supportive data,” says Dr. Greenfield. “Now for people who have established Alzheimer’s, established dementia, there actually is some research saying that it might be beneficial. But for the rest of us, picking up an energy drink or something like that, there’s not enough research data saying that we should be using it—and I would not recommend it.”

For more information about the dangers of Ginkgo Biloba and what scientists have to say about it, go to the The OZ Blog for a post titled “Study: Ginkgo Biloba May Damage the Liver.”

Imager Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: The Dr. Oz Show― “Ginkgo Biloba: Helpful or Harmful?”