Goji Berries Health Benefits
Goji berries health benefits include support of prostate health and overall health due to the fruit’s high antioxidant levels. The wolfberry or Chinese wolfberry is another name for goji berries, which are part of a large family of plants that also includes eggplant, potatoes, tobacco, and tomatoes.
Goji berries is the common name for the fruit produced by two closely related species, Lycium barbarum and L. chinense. The evergreen shrubs that produce goji berries are native to southeastern Europe and subtropical areas of China, Mongolia, and Himalayas in Tibet. Goji berries have a sweet/sour taste and a shape and texture similar to raisins.
Asian herbalists have recognized goji berries health benefits for about 6,000 years. That’s how long they have used the berries to help vision, improve sexual function and fertility, boost the immune system, improve circulation, protect the liver, and promote longevity. Scientific investigations have shown goji berries to be a rich source of antioxidants, especially beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. The presence of these phytonutrients may partially explain goji berries health benefits. Zeaxanthin, for example, has been associated with a reduction in the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Studies of Goji Berries Health Benefits
A study conducted in Switzerland examined the effects of goji berries on macular characteristics and antioxidant levels in elderly adults. A total of 150 healthy adults ages 65 to 70 years participated in the double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. For 90 days, half of the subjects consumed 13.7 grams daily of a proprietary milk-based formula of goji berries, and the other half took placebo.
At the end of the intervention period, participants in the placebo group showed hypopigmentation and soft drusen accumulation (an indication of macular degeneration) in the macula of the eye, while subjects in the goji berry group remained stable. Participants in the goji berry group also had a significant increase in zeaxanthin levels (26%) and in antioxidant capacity (57%), while there was no change in the placebo group. The authors noted that the goji berry formula raises “plasma zeaxanthin and antioxidant levels as well as protects from hypopigmentation and soft drusen accumulation in the macula of elderly subjects.” Exactly how goji berries health benefits worked in this case, however, is unclear. (Bucheli 2011)
A study published in Nutrition Research examined the impact of a goji berry juice preparation (GoChi) on antioxidant biomarkers in healthy adults. The clinical study included 50 adults aged 55 to 72 years who took either 120 mL per day of GoChi or placebo for 30 days. Among participants who consumed goji berry juice, there was a significant increase in the antioxidants superoxide dismutase (SOD) of 8.4 percent, and in glutathione peroxidase, 9.9 percent. The authors concluded that the goji berry juice “increased antioxidant efficacies in humans by stimulating endogenous factors and suggest that continued use beyond 30 days might help prevent or reduce free radical-related conditions.” (Amagese 2009)
Elevated levels of homocysteine can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Goji berries have polysaccharides with an ability to protect neurons from amyloid-beta peptide damage. Therefore, a team of scientists set out to determine if goji berries health benefits included protection against Alzheimer’s disease. Using rat cortical neurons, the investigators found that goji berries significantly reduced neuronal cell death and apoptosis in primary cortical neurons. Goji berries also significantly reduced other homocysteine-associated characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, the authors concluded that goji berries health benefits include “the potential to be a disease modifying agent for the prevention of AD.” (Ho 2010)
Goji Berries and Cancer
One of the active components in goji berries is a vitamin C analog known as AA-2BG. A team of scientists evaluated the effects of AA-2BG against cervical cancer cells (Hela). They discovered that AA-2BG selectively induced cell death and repressed the spread of cervical cancer cells by stabilizing a specific protein. The findings indicated that “AA-2BG and vitamin C may share a similar mechanism of inducing Hela cell apoptosis.” They also suggest goji berries health benefits may include being “a potential dietary supplement and anticancer agent aimed at the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer.” (Zhang 2011)
One study explored the possible role of goji berries in colorectal cancer. Researchers administered 100 to 1,000 mg/L of goji berry polysaccharides to two types of human colon cancer cells for 1 to 8 days. The polysaccharides inhibited cell growth in both colon cancer cell lines and also helped prevent spread of cancer cells in the long term. (Mao 2011)
How to Use Goji Berries
To reap goji berries health benefits, enjoy the fruits raw, added to trail mix, or brewed into a tea. The supplement is available as a liquid extract or as juice. Goji berries may interact with anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners), such as warfarin, and increase the risk of bleeding.
Goji Berries Video
Amagese H et al. Lycium barbarum (goji) juice improves in vivo antioxidant biomarkers in serum of healthy adults. Nutr Res 2009 Jan; 29(1): 19-25
Bucheli P et al. Goji berry effects on macular characteristics and plasma antioxidant levels. Optom Vis Sci 2011 Feb; 88(2): 257-62
Ho YS et al. Neuroprotective effects of polysaccharides from wolfberry, the fruits of Lycium barbarum, against homocysteine-induced toxicity in rat cortical neurons. J Alzheimers Dis 2010; 19(3): 813-27
Mao F et al. Anticancer effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on colon cancer cells involves G0/G1 phase arrest. Med Oncol 2011 Mar; 28(1): 121-26
Zhang Z et al. Selective suppression of cervical cancer Hela cells by 2-O-B-D-glucopyranosyl-L-ascorbic acid isolated from the fruit of Lycium barbarum L. Cell Biol Toxicol 2011 Apr; 27(2): 107-21