Got Your Goji?

Anyone who’s looked suspiciously at health foods containing goji berries, or wolfberries—the new Asian superfruit that will personally lift a car off your children, drop them at school afterward, and then hammer out any dents in the hood—will find this story from McClatchy Newspapers extremely satisfying. The headline gently says “Research Slim on Chinese Goji Berry,” and that may be an overstatement.

The goji berry buzz has reached high volume lately: On Oprah, Dr. Mehmet Oz recently pimped it as “the most potent antioxidant fruit that we know,” and Anheuser-Busch is releasing an energy drink (180 Red) containing goji berries. The fruit does have a long history in Chinese traditional medicine, but once American marketers got ahold of it, it suddenly became surprising that anyone who ate it had ever died. See this spectacular example from the berry’s Wikipedia entry: “Companies marketing the berries often also include the unsupported claim that a Chinese man named Li Qing Yuen, who was said to have consumed wolfberries daily, lived to the age of 252 years (1678-1930).”

As the McClatchy article points out, there’s almost no scientific research on the goji berry. Studies show it’s high in zeaxanthin, which may help prevent macular degeneration—and that’s may—but there’s no evidence of anything else. So eat your goji-rich “wildcrafted antioxidant superfood cereal bar” just because you like the taste. Oh, right—taste. I knew there was another reason to eat food.