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Goji berries from China are among the new Superfoods on the shelves of organic supermarkets. They should make you healthy, beautiful and slim. Learn whether this claim is justified or not?

It’s small, red and shriveled, and, “It’s the greatest anti-aging superfruit in the world,” says USA-renowned nutritionist and organic food retailer David Wolfe. The Chinese goji berry is said to boost the production of human growth hormone, strengthen the immune system, alleviate sleep problems, treat the eyes and even prevent cancer. Some models swear by the berry as a source of their beauty. What are already 40 Euros for one kilo of dried berries in organic quality?

Dried, as jam or capsules

Even in Europe, the “queen of superfoods” is now in many supermarkets on the shelves. Again, consumers hope for the health effects. And once again shows that exotic names work. Maybe the hype would be even smaller if the German name stood on the bag: common wolfberry or Lycium barbarum.

You can eat the berries which are up to one centimeter in size, if one likes the sweet taste, which lies somewhere between prune and fig. They are usually dried, but they are also available as jam and concentrated in capsule form. Nothing speaks against a goji burger with spinach and pine nuts.

Barely meaningful studies on the potential effects

Nevertheless, one should not expect miracles, even if the pages of organic online retailers repeatedly link to supposedly scientific publications and to the fact that the fruit has been used for millennia in traditional Chinese medicine. The well-known studies “were almost exclusively in the test tube and on animals in China, but few were done with humans,” says nutritionist Emilio Martínez de Victoria of the University of Granada. And hardly any of the existing human studies meet scientific criteria.

Desired effect: fitness, better sleep, help with weight loss

Typical is a frequently cited paper by Harunobu Amagase and Dwight M. Nance that seeks to demonstrate the effect of goji juice on fitness, sleep quality, and satisfaction in a study of only 16 participants over two weeks.

More serious is an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA. “EFSA has reviewed the studies submitted on the health claims and found in all health claims made for goji berries that no causal link could be identified between claims and ingestion of goji berries,” says Silke Restemeyer of the German Society for nutrition (DGE).

How much vitamin C is still in dried fruits?

So, it does not help that the representatives of the superfruit refer to the numerous ingredients, carbohydrates, fiber, proteins and the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin. Because all these substances are also found in Central European fruits and vegetables. In particular, the high vitamin C content of Goji fruits is used. But the berries are rarely fresh in Europe. “In terms of vitamin content, fresh local raspberries or strawberries are preferable,” says Restemeyer.

Pesticides and drug interactions

Something else should be considered, says the expert: The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices warned in March 2013 that goji berries can cause dangerous interactions with some blood-thinning drugs. And several analyzes indicate that the fruits – like many foods from distant countries – are often more heavily contaminated with pesticides. The Stuttgart Veterinary Examination Office found in 2010 that 13 out of 14 samples from conventional cultivation exceeded the limit values.

Conclusion: Who wants to try goji berries, should pay attention to organic quality. Although healthy ingredients are really part of the exotic fruits, local fruits like blueberries and apples can also compete. And did not have to be transported halfway around the world.

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Categorised in: Food