Goji Berry

5 Remarkable Benifits of Goji Berries

Goji berries (Lycium sp.) are bright orange-red berries native to China. They have been used as food and medicine since the 3rd century AD. They can be consumed raw, dried (like dates and raisins), cooked or as herbal teas. They are also used in the manufacture of juices, and wines (1).

Today the goji berries and products derived from them are used all over the world, thanks to the discovery of their numerous health benefits, brought to light by many research scientists. Polysaccharides, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds are the three groups of substances that account for the bioactivity of goji berries. The following are some health benefits of goji berries (2).

  1. Promote good vision. The polysaccharides in goji berries protect the neurons in the eyes from damage. They also inhibit the disruption of the blood-retina-barrier, which is vital for maintaining both the structure and function of the retina. Moreover, they increase glutathione levels and decrease the concentration of cystine in the retina, reducing oxidative stress which increases the levels of polyunsaturated fatty acid in the retina, causing it damage (2, 3).

Additionally, carotenoids in goji berries like zeaxanthin and lutein, are the major dietary carotenoids present in the human retina. They protect the macula from damage by blue light by absorbing up to 90% of blue light which reduces the oxidative damage caused by too much light reaching the eyes. They also keep the cornea of the eyes moist and improve visual acuity (4, 5).

  1. Lowers lipid. Goji berries can reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood which can help prevent heart disease. Animal studies reported a reduction on levels of cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) and increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) upon dietary intake of goji berries after consuming a high fat diet (6). Another study with elder persons from China aged 64-80 years reported a 65% decrease in blood lipid peroxides after 10 days of consuming 50g of dry goji berries (7).

  2. Protects against cancer. Goji berries have a long history of use in China for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Its polysaccharides have been reported to promote the apoptosis and inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. They are also rich in scopoletin, which inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells in the human prostrate. Furthermore, glycans in goji berries stimulate the expression of nuclear factor kappa-light-chain enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB). This transcription factor plays an important role in apoptosis, carcinogenesis, immune response, and inflammatory responses. (8, 9).

  3. Controls blood sugar. Goji berries have a low glycemic index of about 29, so they do not spike blood sugar levels after consumption. Research studies have reported that consuming goji berries also helps to reduce blood sugar and balance insulin levels as well. A study carried out in China amongst type 2 diabetes patients reported that consumption of goji berries had a hypoglycemic effect (10).

  4. Relaxer/ sleep aid. Goji berries helps relaxes the body and can also help people sleep well. Clinical studies have reported that drinking goji berry juice for by healthy adults for two weeks reduced stress and fatigue, and improved quality of sleep, calmness, ease of awakening and energy levels (11).

Goji berries are indeed a super food, as they are loaded with many health benefits. Their use is versatile and as such you can choose to consume them in the way that is most appealing to you. They are typically safe to consume, though a few cases of allergic reactions have been reported. Moderation is the key as liver toxicity can occur with excess consumption (12).

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REFERENCES

  1. Potterat, O. (2010). Goji (Lycium barbarumandL. chinense): Phytochemistry, pharmacology and safety in the perspective of traditional uses and recent popularity. Planta Medica, 76(01), 7–19. doi:10.1055/s-0029-1186218

  2. Ma, Z. F., Zhang, H., Teh, S. S., Wang, C. W., Zhang, Y., Hayford, F., … Zhu, Y. (2019). Goji berries as a potential natural antioxidant medicine: An insight into their molecular mechanisms of action. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2019, 2437397. doi:10.1155/2019/2437397

  3. Li, S.-Y., Yang, D., Yeung, C.-M., Yu, W.-Y., Chang, R. C.-C., So, K.-F., … Lo, A. C. Y. (2011). Lycium barbarum polysaccharides reduce neuronal damage, blood-retinal barrier disruption and oxidative stress in retinal ischemia/reperfusion injury. PloS One, 6(1), e16380. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016380

  4. Islam, T., Yu, X., Badwal, T. S., & Xu, B. (2017). Comparative studies on phenolic profiles, antioxidant capacities and carotenoid contents of red goji berry (Lycium barbarum) and black goji berry (Lycium ruthenicum). Chemistry Central Journal, 11(1). doi:10.1186/s13065-017-0287-z

  5. Abdel-Aal, E.-S. M., Akhtar, H., Zaheer, K., & Ali, R. (2013). Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health. Nutrients, 5(4), 1169–1185. doi:10.3390/nu5041169

  6. Ming, M., Guanhua, L., Zhanhai, Y., Guang, C., & Xuan, Z. (2009). Effect of the Lycium barbarum polysaccharides administration on blood lipid metabolism and oxidative stress of mice fed high-fat diet in vivo. Food Chemistry, 113(4), 872–877. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.03.064

  7. Li, W., Dai, S. Z., Ma, W., & Gao, L. (1991). Effects of oral administration of wolfberry on blood superoxide dismutase (SOD), hemoglobin (Hb) and lipid peroxide (LPO) levels in old people. Chinese Traditional and Herbal Drugs, 22, 96–99.

  8. Gan, L., Hua Zhang, S., Liang Yang, X., & Bi Xu, H. (2004). Immunomodulation and antitumor activity by a polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum. International Immunopharmacology, 4(4), 563–569. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2004.01.023

  9. Kulczyński, B., & Gramza-Michałowska, A. (2016). Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum): Composition and Health Effects – a Review. Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences, 66(2), 67–75. doi:10.1515/pjfns-2015-0040

  10. Cai, H., Liu, F., Zuo, P., Huang, G., Song, Z., Wang, T., … Sun, G. (2015). Practical application of antidiabetic efficacy of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide in patients with type 2 diabetes. Medicinal Chemistry (Shariqah (United Arab Emirates)), 11(4), 383–390. doi:10.2174/1573406410666141110153858

  11. Amagase, H., & Nance, D. M. (2008). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study of the general effects of a standardized Lycium barbarum (Goji) Juice, GoChi. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 14(4), 403–412. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0004

  12. Arroyo-Martinez, Q., Sáenz, M. J., Arias, F. A., & Acosta, M. S. J. (2011). Lycium barbarum: A new hepatotoxic “natural” agent? Digestive and Liver Disease: Official Journal of the Italian Society of Gastroenterology and the Italian Association for the Study of the Liver, 43(9), 749. doi:10.1016/j.dld.2011.04.010

 

 

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