Goji berry reduces exercise-induced oxidative stress

Goji berry, also called Lycium barbarum, Fructus lycii or Gouqizi, has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years.  In TCM literature, the herb is known for balancing “Yin” and “Yang” in the body, nourishing the liver and kidney and improving visual acuity.

Goji berry fruits have a variety of biological activities and pharmacological functions.  The herb has been used in TCM for preventing and treating various chronic diseases including diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cancer, hepatitis, hypo-immunity function, thrombosis, and male infertility.  The amazing medicinal property of the herb causes the Ministry of the Public Health of China to approve this delicious berry fruit to be marketed as a botanical medicine.

Modern research has revealed various active compounds in goji berry, including goji berry polysaccharides.  Previous studies have shown that goji berry polysaccharides can enhance exercise endurance capacity, reduce fatigue and exhibit antioxidant activity in vitro and in vivo.

Regular physical exercise has many health benefits.  Extensive research has shown that regular exercise lowers mortality, delays brain aging and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.  However, strenuous physical exercise is known to dramatically increase oxygen uptake, which leads to increased generation of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as superoxide and hydrogen peroxide.  The free radicals and ROS are known to cause lipid peroxidation in cell membranes, DNA damage, and decreased antioxidant levels in muscle tissues and blood, leading to cellular and muscle damage.

Antioxidants are substances that help reduce the severity of oxidative stress either by forming a less active free radical or by quenching the oxidative reaction.  Research suggests that dietary antioxidants may prevent muscle damage because they are able to detoxify some peroxides by scavenging ROS produced during exercise.  Therefore, it only made sense that goji berry polysaccharides, due to their amazing antioxidant properties, may treat exercise-induced oxidative stress.   It turns out that the animal studies showed exactly that.

To investigate such hypothesis, the researchers divided testing animals into four groups, i.e., one control group and three goji berry treated groups. The animals received the treatment for 28 days.  On the day of the exercise test, animals were required to run to exhaustion on the treadmill.  Body weight, endurance time, as well as oxidative stress indicators were measured.

The results showed that the body weight in goji berry treated groups were not significantly different from that in the control group before and after the experiment.  After exhaustive exercise, the endurance time in goji berry treated groups was significantly prolonged compared with that in the control group.  The oxidative stress indicators in the goji berry treated groups were significantly reduced compared with that in the control group.  The collective results indicate that goji berry was effective in preventing oxidative stress after exhaustive exercise.

The take home message is that – do consider including goji berry in your exercise dietary regime.  The herb not only tastes delicious but also may do wonders to your sports performance.

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference: Xiaozhong Shan, Junlai Zhou, Tao Ma and Wiongxia Chai, Lycium barbarum polysaccharides reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2011; 12(2): 1081-1088.   doi:  10.3390/ijms12021081

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