According to a small, randomized study, the regular consumption of a small portion of dried goji berries could help in preventing or delaying age-related macular degeneration in healthy middle-aged individuals. Age-related macular degeneration is the major cause of vision loss in elderly individuals, which affects the central field of vision and can affect reading ability.
The cause of age-related macular degeneration is complex and multifactorial and involves a combination of age-associated changes, genetic risks, and environmental factors such as diet, smoking, and exposure to the sun. Early stages of age-related macular degeneration don’t have symptoms; physicians can however detect age-related macular degeneration and other eye problems with a standard comprehensive eye exam.
For the study, 13 healthy individuals between the ages of 45 and 65 consumed about a handful (28 grams) of goji berries 5 times per week for 3 months which led to an increase in the density of protective eye pigments. In comparison, 14 individuals consuming a commercial eye health supplement over the same period didn’t experience an increase.
Zeaxanthin and lutein were the pigments that increased in the goji berry group, which provide antioxidant protection and help filter out harmful blue light. Zeaxanthin and lutein are like sunscreen for the eyes and help in protecting the eyes while aging. The higher the zeaxanthin and lutein levels in the retina, the more protection there is. A small daily portion of goji berries can increase levels of these optical pigments even in normal healthy eyes.
Goji berries are the fruit of two types of shrubby bushes known as Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense, which are found in northwest China. The dried berries are comparable to raisins and eaten as a snack. They are also a typical ingredient used in Chinese soups and are popular as herbal tea. Goji berries are believed to have “eye brightening” properties in Chinese medicine.
While examining the goji berries’ bioactive compounds, the researchers discovered they contain high quantities of zeaxanthin and lutein, which are known for reducing the risk of eye diseases associated with age-related macular degeneration. It’s a highly bioavailable form of zeaxanthin that’s found in goji berries, which means the digestive system can readily absorb it.
The existing treatment for intermediate stages of age-related macular degeneration makes use of specialized dietary supplements, known as AREDS, that contain vitamins E, C, copper, zinc, zeaxanthin, and lutein. No therapy has been proven to affect the early stages of age-related macular degeneration. This study demonstrates that goji berries can help improve macular pigments without having to take specialized nutritional supplements.