Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum) seed oil in a clear glass vial
Since the early 21st century, the dried fruit has been marketed in the Western world as a health food, amidst scientifically unsupported claims regarding such benefits.[self-published source] In the wake of those claims, dried and fresh goji berries were included in many snack foods and food supplements, such as granola bars, yogurt, tea blends, fruit juices and juice concentrates, whole fruit purées, and dried pulp flour. There have been also commercial products of whole and ground wolfberry seeds, and seed oil.
Among the extreme claims used to market the product, often referred to as a "superfruit", is the unsupported story that a Chinese man named Li Qing Yuen, who was said to have consumed wolfberries daily, lived to the age of 256 years (1677–1933). This claim apparently originated in a 2003 booklet by Earl Mindell, who claimed also that goji had anti-cancer properties. The booklet contained false and unverified claims.
Such exaggerated claims about the health benefits of goji berry and derived products triggered strong reactions, including from government regulatory agencies. In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed two goji juice distributors on notice with warning letters about unproven therapeutic benefits. These statements were in violation of the United States Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act [21 USC/321 (g)(1)] because they "establish[ed] the product as a drug intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" when wolfberries or juice have had no such scientific evaluation. Additionally stated by the FDA, the goji juice was "not generally recognized as safe and effective for the referenced conditions" and therefore must be treated as a "new drug" under Section 21(p) of the Act. New drugs may not be legally marketed in the United States without prior approval of the FDA.
In January 2007, marketing statements for a goji juice product were the subject of an investigative report by consumer advocacy program Marketplace produced by the Canadian television network, CBC. In the interview, Earl Mindell (then working for direct-marketing company FreeLife International, Inc.) falsely claimed the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York had completed clinical studies showing that use of wolfberry juice would prevent 75% of human breast cancer cases.
On May 29, 2009, a class action lawsuit was filed against FreeLife in the United States District Court of Arizona. This lawsuit alleged false claims, misrepresentations, false and deceptive advertising and other issues regarding FreeLife’s Himalayan Goji Juice, GoChi, and TaiSlim products. This lawsuit sought remedies for consumers who had purchased the products over years. A settlement agreement was reached on April 28, 2010, where FreeLife took steps to ensure that its goji products were not marketed as "unheated" or "raw", and made a contribution to an educational organization.
As with many other novel "health" foods and supplements, the lack of clinical evidence and poor quality control in the manufacture of consumer products prevent goji from being clinically recommended or applied.
Because of the numerous effects claimed by traditional medicine, there has been considerable basic research to investigate possible medicinal uses of substances contained in the fruit. The composition of the fruits, seeds, roots, and other parts have been analyzed in detail, and extracts are under study in vitro and in vivo. However, no clinical effectiveness of such extracts has been confirmed as of 2018.
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