Goji Berry: Nutrition and More

Goji berries are bright red with a sweet, tangy flavor and grow on a shrub native to Asia.

The berry has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine as a tonic for the eyes, kidneys, and liver. Goji Berry Berry

Goji Berry: Nutrition and More

Today, it is often consumed for its antioxidant effects and to lessen the signs of aging.

This article looks at the latest research regarding goji berries' uses, benefits, and drug interactions. It also discusses goji berry's nutrition profile and how to incorporate it into your diet.

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN), pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

There aren't many human trials of goji berry, and many are small. But they suggest that goji may protect against vision loss, heart disease, diabetes, and liver problems.

Here's the latest evidence about goji berry's benefits.

A few clinical trials have studied the effects of goji berry on age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness.

Goji berry contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids (red, yellow, or orange pigmennts) that protect the eye from damage. Goji is the richest dietary source of zeaxanthin. Studies show that taking it for 28 days can more than double the levels of zeaxanthin in the blood.

A trial of 114 older patients with early AMD showed that goji berry increased macular pigment and zeaxanthin compared to placebo (sugar pill containing no therapeutic ingredients). These increases may slow the progression of degeneration in the eye.

In another trial of healthy middle-aged adults, goji berry was more effective than taking a supplement containing smaller amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.

This trial was small—limited to just 27 people. However, results suggest that goji berry could help strengthen the eyes and prevent AMD, even in people without eye damage.

Goji berry has also been shown to protect the retina and preserve vision in retinitis pigmentosa. This was also small, consisting of 42 people who took goji for 12 months.

A trial of 54 people with myopia (nearsightedness) showed that zeaxanthin from goji berry increased macular pigment, which is associated with better vision.

Larger clinical trials are needed to verify these effects.

In a clinical trial, 67 people with type 2 diabetes took goji berries for three months.

It resulted in the following:

The most significant effects were seen in people not taking other diabetes medications.

Goji berries, mainly when eaten as a whole food, may lower the risk of heart disease. It has been shown to decrease levels of triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol, both of which protect the heart.

A small clinical trial of 40 adults over age 50 compared the effects of a healthy diet with and without whole dried goji berries. People who ate 15 g of goji berry daily in along with a healthy diet had higher levels of HDL cholesterol and a decreased long-term risk of heart disease.

Taking goji berry for 12 weeks may improve liver function, according to a trial of 90 adults with elevated liver enzymes.

Goji berry decreased the following liver enzymes:

This was associated with healthy liver function.

Goji berry has also been investigated in preclinical studies (in test tubes or using animal models) for the following conditions:

Until human clinical trials are done, it's too soon to know if goji can benefit humans with any of these conditions.

Goji berry is unlikely to cause side effects in healthy adults. However, consuming a food like goji berry may have potential side effects. These side effects may be common and mild or less common and severe. 

Goji has been associated with:

Should you experience these symptoms, seek medical help right away.

Do keep the following precautions in mind when using goji berry:

Goji berry has not shown evidence of toxicity in clinical trials. Most trials have only been conducted for up to three months. Long-term safety data is unknown.

Goji berries may interact with the following medications:

It is essential to carefully read a supplement's ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review the supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

Goji berries are typically consumed at 15 to 30 g per day. Lower doses of 6 to 18 g daily may be used as part of combination herbal products.

The dose studied in a clinical trial for AMD was 28 g five days a week for 90 days.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements the way it regulates prescription drugs. That means some supplement products may not contain what the label says. When choosing a supplement, look for third-party tested products and consult a healthcare provider, registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN), or pharmacist.

Fresh goji berry is perishable and has a short shelf life. The berry will generally stay fresh for up to nine days if it's refrigerated.

Dried goji berries or juices are typically found in health food or grocery stores. For these products, follow the manufacturer's directions regarding storage and expiration date. Juices may need to be refrigerated after opening.

Goji berry supplements like capsules or powders should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from children or pets. Discard them after one year or according to package labeling.

Other supplements that may slow or prevent the progression of AMD include:

Goji berry is available as a whole food, in commercially available food and drinks, and in supplement form.

Whenever possible, eat goji as a whole food to optimize its therapeutic effects.

Goji berry is a nutrition-rich food comprising 46% carbohydrates, 13% protein, 1.5% fat, and 16.5% dietary fiber.

Dried goji berries can be eaten raw or cooked and used in teas and soups. Goji berries are also ingredients in commercial products such as cookies, chocolates, and wine.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides the following nutritional profile for five tablespoons, or 28 grams, of dried goji berries.

Micronutrients such as the following are also found in goji berries:

Goji berry supplements are available in capsule, extract, and powder forms. These forms may be less effective than incorporating fresh goji berries into your diet.

Goji berry is a popular functional food.

Small studies have shown that it may help preserve vision, guard against heart disease, and decrease blood sugar.

Larger, human clinical trials are still needed to verify these results, though.

Side effects are rare, but goji berry may interact with the blood-thinning medication warfarin and medicines for diabetes.

Although it's available in dietary supplement form, goji berry is more beneficial when consumed as a whole food.

It can be incorporated into the diet as fresh or dried fruit or as an ingredient in commercially available foods and drinks.

Goji berry may slow or prevent the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss. It may also protect the retina and increase macular pigment associated with healthy vision.

Goji berries may interact with warfarin to cause an increased risk of bleeding. It may also cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if it's taken with other medicines for diabetes.

Goji berries can be eaten raw or as a dried fruit. It can be consumed as a tea or as an ingredient in soups. They're also available in commercial foods and drinks like chocolate and wine.

Foods like leafy green vegetables, eggs, and nuts are high in these carotenoids.

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By Megan Nunn, PharmD Megan Nunn, PharmD, is a community pharmacist in Tennessee with over twelve years of experience in medication counseling and immunization.

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Goji Berry: Nutrition and More

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