Goji - not so super

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 24 February 2009.
Tagged: anti-aging, energy, super foods, superfoods, vitamins, wellness

Goji - not so super

Currently, there have been no human clinical trials performed on Goji berries and no scientific evidence published under peer review. Many distributors are not compliant with regulatory guidelines for marketing natural food products and have inadequate or incorrect labelling on products. Here are the popular claims made on goji packs and what we say in reply ...


"Contains 19 amino acids - the building blocks of protein including all of the 8 amino acids that are essential for life"

We say: There is a lot of inconsistency with this claim with some Goji websites and advertising material claiming to have 19 amino acids, while others claim 18 amino acids - it's either one or the other.

"Supplies 21 trace minerals including germanium"

We say: Germanium can be found in a variety of foods including beans, tomato juice, oysters, tuna and garlic. However, it is not considered an essential trace mineral and isn't needed for good health. There is no known biological function for germanium, although it has been suggested that germanium may be involved in carbohydrate metabolism.  pdf

Germanium has been claimed to have beneficial effects on a number of conditions include cancer, AIDS, liver disease, hypertension, arthritis and malaria. The results of trials using spirogermanium as a cancer treatment are inconclusive.

Inorganic forms of germanium compounds are more toxic than organic germanium compounds, and toxicity in humans has generally occurred following consumption of inorganic germanium as a food supplement. Initial symptoms include anorexia, weight loss, fatigue and muscle weakness and is followed by renal dysfunction and failure, which can be fatal.

"Contains four polysaccharides that are unique to the Goji fruit"

We say: Polysaccharides are a major constituent of Goji berries. Marketers use this to make claims about the "specific" physiological role that these polysaccharides have. According to Wikipedia however, there is no scientific evidence published under peerreview to back up these claims. What's more, such claims are non-compliant with regulatory guidelines for marketing of natural food products.

"Contains more protein than whole wheat (13%)"

We say: Depending on its type, wheat contains between 12g to 15g of protein per 100g, which is not much when you compare that to high protein foods such as red meat (27g/100g) or chicken (28g/100g) . From the analyses of dried Goji we've surveyed, there is only 10.0 to 12.0% protein which is LOWER, not higher than wheat! It's splitting hairs really!

"Contains vitamin C at levels 500 times higher than orange juice"

We say: The vitamin C content of Goji berries ranges anywhere from 29mg to 148mg per 100g, according to Wikipedia (very few reliable figures around). Oranges contain on average 53mg of vitamin C per 100g. So Goji are definitely NOT 500 times higher than oranges - on a par or maybe triple, not 500!

"Has B-complex vitamins (B1, B2 & B6) necessary for converting food into energy"

We say: B vitamins are found in many foods and are required in very small amounts for various metabolic processes and other functions.

Thiamin (vitamin B1) is found in wholemeal cereal grains, seeds (especially sesame seeds), legumes, wheatgerm, watermelon, yeast and pork. In Australia, white flour is also fortified with thiamin.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is found in milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, wholegrain breads and cereals, egg white, leafy green vegetables, meat and organ meats such as liver and kidney.

Vitamin B6 cereal grains and legumes, green leafy vegetables, fish and shellfish, meat and poultry, nuts, liver and fruit.


The bottom line

Goji are healthy but nothing that special that you need to pay A$80 per kilo for them. You can meet your daily vitamins and antioxidants by enjoying a wide range of foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grain, nuts and seafood. You don't need Goji.