Research Article: Effects of lifetime cumulative ginseng intake on cognitive function in late life

Date Published: May 24, 2018

Publisher: BioMed Central

Author(s): Silvia Kyungjin Lho, Tae Hui Kim, Kyung Phil Kwak, Kayoung Kim, Bong Jo Kim, Shin Gyeom Kim, Jeong Lan Kim, Tae Hyun Kim, Seok Woo Moon, Jae Young Park, Joon Hyuk Park, Seonjeong Byun, Seung Wan Suh, Ji Young Seo, Yoonseop So, Seung-Ho Ryu, Jong Chul Youn, Kyoung Hwan Lee, Dong Young Lee, Dong Woo Lee, Seok Bum Lee, Jung Jae Lee, Ju Ri Lee, Hyeon Jeong, Hyun-Ghang Jeong, Jin Hyeong Jhoo, Kyuhee Han, Jong Woo Hong, Ji Won Han, Ki Woong Kim.


We investigated the effects of lifetime cumulative ginseng intake on cognitive function in a community-dwelling population-based prospective cohort of Korean elders.

Community-dwelling elders (N = 6422; mean age = 70.2 ± 6.9 years, education = 8.0 ± 5.3 years, female = 56.8%) from the Korean Longitudinal Study on Cognitive Aging and Dementia were included. Among them, 3918 participants (61.0%) completed the 2-year and 4-year follow-up evaluations. Subjects were categorized according to cumulative ginseng intake at baseline evaluation; no use group, low use (< 5 years) group, and high use (≥ 5 years) group. One-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted to compare the impact of cumulative ginseng intake on baseline Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Packet neuropsychological battery total score (CERAD total score) and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score among the three groups while adjusting for potential covariates. A repeated-measures ANCOVA was performed to investigate the impacts on the changes in CERAD total scores and MMSE scores during the 4 years of follow-up. The high use group showed higher CERAD total scores compared to the no use group after controlling for age, sex, education years, socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol intake, presence of hypertension, stroke history, Geriatric Depression Scale, Cumulative Illness Rating Scale, and presence of the APOE e4 allele (F(2, 4762) = 3.978, p = 0.019). The changes of CERAD total score for 2 or 4 years of follow-up did not differ according to the use of ginseng. Cumulative ginseng use for longer than 5 years may be beneficial to cognitive function in late life. The online version of this article (10.1186/s13195-018-0380-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Partial Text

Ginseng, which has been used for at least 2000 years in Asian countries [1], is one of the most widely sold medicinal herbs worldwide [2]. The estimated world ginseng market is dramatically increasing, worth approximately $2085 million in 2009 [1]. An analysis of the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in the year 2015 reported that ginseng products, including red ginseng and white ginseng, reached KRW 725.0 billion, with the highest market share reaching 39.8% of the dietary supplement market in South Korea.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not lifetime cumulative ginseng intake has beneficial effects on cognitive function and future change. Here, we found that individuals with high lifetime cumulative ginseng intake showed higher CERAD total scores in late life than nonusers, even after comprehensively controlling for confounding variables that could affect cognitive function. However, changes in cognitive function over 2 or 4 years in late life were not influenced by the use of ginseng. To our knowledge, this study is the first that showed the effect of ginseng on late life cognitive function in a large, randomly sampled, community-based elderly cohort.

Cumulative ginseng use for longer than 5 years may be beneficial for cognitive function in late life. However, its effect on the rate of cognitive decline over 4 years in late life was not observed, which warrants future studies with longer duration of follow-up.




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