effect of ginkgo on life span

Doug Skrecky (oberon@vcn.bc.ca)
Fri, 31 Jul 1998 08:38:16 -0700 (PDT)

Winter JC.
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo, 14214-3000, USA. JWINTER:UBMEDG.BUFFALO.EDU
The effects of an extract of Ginkgo biloba, EGb 761, on cognitive behavior and longevity in the rat.
Physiology & Behavior. 63(3):425-33, 1998 Feb 1. Abstract
Extracts of the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree are widely used throughout the world for their purportedly beneficial effects on brain function. In the present investigation, a standardized extract, EGb 761, was self-administered orally by male Fischer 344 rats that were then tested in an eight-arm radial maze. The tasks employed were a) continuous learning and b) delayed nonmatching to position. Chronic postsession administration of EGb 761 at a dose of 50 mg/kg had no effect on continuous learning but the same dose given presession resulted in a trend toward fewer sessions to reach criterion performance as well as fewer errors. In addition, it was observed that rats chronically treated with EGb 761 lived significantly longer than
vehicle-treated subjects. In a delayed nonmatching to position task using a 30-min delay in 20-month-old rats. EGb 761 administered presession produced a dose-related decrease in total, retroactive, and proactive errors; a repeated-measures design was used, with subjects serving as their own controls. Following the dose-response determination, the group, now 26 months of age, was divided in two with half receiving EGb 761 at a dose of 200 mg/kg presession and the other half vehicle (sweetened condensed milk). A statistically significant positive effect of treatment with EGb-761 was observed. The present data are consistent with the beneficial effects on cognitive performance which have been widely reported in human subjects. In addition, the data suggest that the methods employed, i.e., continuous learning and delayed nonmatching to position tasks in aged rats, are capable of detecting drugs of possible value in the treatment of human cognitive impairment. Finally, the present results encourage a search for the pharmacologically active principles of EGb 761 and for their mechanisms of action.

Additional quote from text:

"An unexpected observation made during the continuous-learning experiments was that treatment with EGb 761 appeared to extend the life span (Fig.2). Because an effect on longevity was not an original goal of the experiments and because several animals had died before the effect became apparent, formal assessment of the causes of death was not undertaken. Based on the well-established fact that caloric restriction extends the life span in rodents, it might be argued that EGb 761 somehow acted to alter food intake and weight gain. However, retrospective evaluation revealed no significant difference in weight between the EGb 761 and control groups at the time of death. Although the mechanism by which energy restriction extends life is unknown, oxidative stress and free radical production are thought to be important factors both in aging and in dementia. Thus, the known effects of Ginkgo biloba as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger provide alternative, though highly speculative explanations of the data of Fig.2. Because the data shown in Fig.2 reflect lifetime administration of a relatively low dose of EGb 761, immediate questions arise as to whether initiation of treatment later in life would have had a comparible effect and as to whether higher doses would have been more effective. I am aware of no previous reports regarding possible effects of EGb 761 on longevity."

Additional note added by poster:

Here's an interesting project in the field of gerontology: Feed various subfractions of EGb 761 to aged rodents to determine the ingrediant(s) active in providing the life span prolongation and note the effect on various causes of mortality to help ascertain the mode(s) of action. From Fig.2 the average life span was 26.4 months for the control Fisher 344 rats, and 31.0 months (17% increase) for the EGb 761 treated rats. Maximum life span was 35 months for the control rats, and 38 months (9% increase) in the EGb 761 treated rats. Dosage of EGB 761 used was 50 mg/kg 5 times per week.