By Dr. Mary Jane Brown
Goji berries have gained popularity in recent years, often promoted as a "superfood."
They're thought to help prevent premature aging, boost the immune system, have benefits for diabetes and protect against heart disease and cancer (1).
But do they really live up to the hype? This article explores nine benefits of goji berries that are actually backed by science.
What Are Goji Berries?
Goji berries, scientifically known as Lycium barbarum, are also known as wolfberries, fructus lycii and gougizi. These dried red berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years (2).
They have a sweet taste and can be eaten raw or consumed as a juice or herbal tea. They can also be taken as extracts, powders and tablets.
All dark blue or red berries, including goji berries, contain high levels of antioxidants, which may help protect the body against damage from free radicals.
What's unique about goji berries is that they contain specific antioxidants called Lycium barbarum polysaccharides, which are thought to provide a variety of impressive health benefits.
In addition, goji berries provide 11 essential amino acids—more than other common berries (3).
Read on for 9 evidence-based health benefits of goji berries.
1. Very Nutritious
The nutritional content of goji berries is thought to vary widely depending on the type, freshness and how they're processed.
As a rough guide, ¼ cup (85 grams) of dried goji berries has about (4):
- Calories: 70
- Sugar: 12 grams
- Protein: 9 grams
- Fiber: 6 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Vitamin A: 150 percent of the RDI
- Copper: 84 percent of the RDI
- Selenium: 75 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 63 percent of the RDI
- Iron: 42 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 27 percent of the RDI
- Potassium: 21 percent of the RDI
- Zinc: 15 percent of the RDI
- Thiamine: 9 percent of the RDI
In addition, they are packed full of powerful antioxidants, including carotenoids, lycopene, lutein and polysaccharides. In fact, polysaccharides make up 5–8 percent of dried goji berries (5).
By weight, these berries contain about as much vitamin C as fresh lemons and oranges (5).
For a fruit, goji berries are relatively high in protein and fiber, two nutrients that may help keep you fuller for longer.
Goji berries are also rich in copper, iron, selenium and zinc.
These minerals are essential to the function of all your organs, protecting your cells and helping optimize metabolism (8).
Summary: Goji berries are very nutritious. They are high in fiber, protein and a range of vitamins and minerals including iron, copper, selenium and vitamins A and C.
2. Excellent Source of Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which are harmful molecules that can damage your cells.
Goji berries have a high oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score of 3,290. This rating indicates the quantity of antioxidants in certain foods.
Keep in mind that ORAC values are determined in test-tube studies, so these fruits may not necessarily have the same effects in the human body. However, there is other evidence that goji berries can boost antioxidant levels in humans.
Antioxidant markers increased by more than 8 percent among 50 healthy adults who drank 4 ounces (120 ml) of concentrated goji berry juice a day, compared to those who did not drink the juice (10).
One study in healthy elderly men and women found that taking a milk-based goji berry drink daily for 90 days increased levels of the antioxidant zeaxanthin by 26 percent and increased overall antioxidant capacity by 57 percent (11).
This is good news, since antioxidants consumed through the diet are thought to be important for health and protection against chronic diseases (12).
Summary: Regularly consuming concentrated goji berry juice can boost antioxidant levels in the body.
3. May Have Anti-Aging Benefits
Some small studies have also shown that goji berry extract may help delay the aging process in cells.
One study in mice showed that goji berry extract inhibits glycation, a process that ages the skin (14).
Another test-tube study found that goji berry extract boosted DNA synthesis in certain cells, protecting them against aging caused by DNA damage (15).
Consuming a wide range of foods high in antioxidants is thought to help protect against premature aging.
These preliminary results are promising, but human studies are needed.
Summary: Goji berry extract has been shown to protect against cell damage in test-tube and animal studies. This may protect against premature aging, but more research is needed in humans.
4. May Help Prevent Cancer Growth
Goji berry extract has been linked to anti-cancer activity in both animal and human studies (16).
One study in rats found that a regular diet of goji berries inhibited the progression of cancerous tumors. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, noni fruit and açaí berries were equally effective (19).
The potential tumor-inhibiting effects of goji berries are likely due to their ability to boost levels of antioxidants and reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines IL-5 and IL-8 in the blood (19).
A study in 79 people with advanced cancer found that those who were given immunotherapy plus concentrated goji extract experienced a 25 percent higher rate of cancer regression compared to those who received immunotherapy alone (20).
These anti-cancer effects are likely due to the antioxidants found in goji berries.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that most of these studies used only extracted and concentrated parts of the berries, not just goji berries alone.
Summary: Goji berry extract may inhibit or slow down the growth of cancer cells and may even actively destroy them.
5. May Improve Blood Sugar Control
One study gave goji berry polysaccharide extract to rats with type 2 diabetes for four weeks. The researchers found that blood glucose levels decreased in nearly 35 percent of the rats (23).
Another study found the same thing. Rats with type 2 diabetes that consumed goji berry extract daily for three weeks had lower blood sugar levels after eating, as well as increased insulin sensitivity (25).
These positive effects on blood sugar are strongly linked to the antioxidant activity of goji berry extract.
Studies in this area have shown that goji berry extract promotes insulin sensitivity by increasing the absorption of glucose into cells through the transporter molecule GLUT4 and by boosting insulin secretion by the pancreas (26).
However, these studies are limited to animals, so it's not clear if humans would experience the same positive effects. More research in humans is needed.
Summary: Test-tube and animal studies show that goji berry extract improves blood sugar control by increasing insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion by the pancreas.
6. May Boost Energy Levels
Consuming concentrated goji berry extract or juice has been linked to improved energy and feelings of overall well-being.
When mice were given goji berry extract, they adapted more quickly to particular exercises. They also showed improved performance and better recovery after an exercise test (27).
It's thought that goji berry extract could enhance the creation of muscle and liver glycogen, a storage form of glucose that helps you maintain physical activity.
It may also speed up the clearance of blood urea nitrogen, a waste product your body produces after strenuous exercise (27).
Similar results were found in humans. In one controlled study, 34 healthy men and women consumed 4 ounces (120 ml) of concentrated goji berry juice for 14 days.
As a result, they reported increased energy, better exercise performance, improved quality of sleep and reduced stress and fatigue compared to before they began consuming the juice. They also reported feeling happier and more content (28).
Summary: Regular consumption of goji berry extract may improve energy levels, exercise performance and overall feelings of well-being.
7. May Help You Lose Weight
Goji berries have certain properties that may make them weight loss friendly.
For example, they are high in fiber, which can help control blood sugar and appetite, helping you feel full for longer (29).
Goji berries also have a low glycemic index (GI).
The GI value for a particular food or drink indicates the effect it will have on your blood sugar levels once you eat it.
Because low-GI foods release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream, they're thought to help improve feelings of fullness and reduce cravings (30).
There is some evidence that goji berry juice may aid in weight loss by increasing metabolic rate.
One study found that when healthy overweight men and women consumed a single 4-ounce (120-ml) dose of concentrated goji berry juice, their ability to burn calories after one hour was 10 percent greater than in those who didn't consume the juice (31).
When participants consumed goji berry juice over 14 days, their waist circumference decreased by an average of 1.9 inches (4.7 cm) compared to the control group (31).
However, these studies are small and more research needs to be done to determine if consuming goji berry juice definitely results in weight loss.
Summary: Goji berries are low-GI and high in fiber, which can help with weight loss. Concentrated goji berry juice may promote weight loss through increased calorie burning.
8. May Improve Cholesterol Levels
Animal studies have shown that taking goji berry extract may have positive effects on cholesterol levels.
The authors of the study suggested the improved cholesterol levels were likely caused by the antioxidant polysaccharides and vitamins in the goji berry extract.
Summary: Animal studies have shown that goji berry extract may help lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase "good" HDL cholesterol.
9. May Help Boost the Immune System
Goji berry extract may help boost immune function (32).
One study in 60 healthy older adults found that taking 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of concentrated goji berry juice daily for 30 days led to improved immune function (33).
More specifically, it boosted lymphocytes, white blood cells responsible for protecting the body from harmful bacteria and viruses (33).
Summary: Goji berry extract may help boost the immune system by increasing the white blood cells responsible for protecting the body against harmful bacteria and viruses.
Are They Really as Healthy as People Say?
Goji berries are packed with many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
They're associated with many health benefits, including improving blood sugar control, helping with weight loss, fighting aging and protecting against cancer.
Nevertheless, more human studies are needed. Most of the benefits also seem associated with concentrated juice or purified extracts, both of which have higher levels of active compounds than you would get from fresh or dried goji berries.
In addition, goji berries and their products can be costly.
Overall, it makes sense to include them as part of an overall healthy diet involving a range of other fruits and vegetables.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.