How healthy are the miracle berries really?
Goji, noni or acai - more and more people swear by the miracle berries, which are said to have many health-promoting properties. The berries are said to help with mass ailments such as diabetes, support cancer therapies and produce a rejuvenating effect. So far, however, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. Nevertheless, many of the exotic fruits contain high levels of health-promoting ingredients such as vitamin C or antioxidants.
Berries available as dried fruit, juice or powder. While many supporters of natural healing methods swear by the exotic fruits, they are demonized by others. Critical voices mostly criticize the high prices and the lack of scientific evidence for effectiveness. The fruits are also controversial among experts. Hilke Steinecke, a biologist in the palm garden in Frankfurt am Main, is of the opinion that the attraction of the exotic is primarily responsible for the popularity of the berries, as she explains to the news agency "dpa". Acerola cherries would come from Mexico, acai from the Amazon, noni originally from Hawaii and the goji berry from the Himalayas, where they are said to have eaten Buddha, the expert explains. The urge for the exotic is also encouraged by the Internet and the desire for particularly natural and new medicinal and beauty products.
The fruits are now available almost everywhere in the world. In Germany you can now also buy them in the supermarket. They are usually offered in dried form, as juice or powder because they would not survive the long transport as freshly harvested fruit. “Because they are highly sensitive, they are almost never fresh,” confirms Steinecke. If fruits are processed, however, the health-promoting effect can be influenced. “There are many substances in the shell. When peeling apples, I also throw away some of the protection, ”Bernhard Watzl, professor of physiology and biochemistry of nutrition at the Max Rubner Institute in Karlsruhe, told the news agency.
Effect of acerola is confirmed by experts. Since the juices from many berries are bitter or not tasty, they are usually mixed with other drinks or foods. The powder is usually offered as a mixture in combination with other ingredients. As Heinrich Stevens of the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food in Bonn explains to the news agency, acerola is used, for example, in jam or ice cream.
The fruits of the acerola plant are among those with the highest content of natural vitamin C. Therefore acerola is used for the prevention and treatment of many diseases such as diabetes, allergies, cardiovascular diseases, infections, rheumatism and even cancer and is "indispensable" there, explains Stevens. Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants and is therefore one of the most effective antagonists of free radicals, which can damage cell structures and genetic material. The aging process is also often associated with the effects of free radicals.
"Fruits have a special spectrum of ingredients such as phytochemicals that influence health," reports Watzl. These include those antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, polyphenols and minerals. Polyphenols perform a special function for the plant by protecting it from pests. "Because we have developed depending on plants in millions of years, polyphenols also affect us." Nevertheless, Watzl doubts that the supposed miracle berries are healthier than other fruits. "They help as much as the apple, the orange." In addition, some domestic varieties such as blueberries, raspberries or strawberries sometimes even have a higher content of certain polyphenols. According to the Max Rubner Institute, domestic blueberries contain more magnesium than, for example, acai.
Goji berry is now also native to Germany. Goji berry is also very popular. It is usually sold dried in small bags, which can cost around ten euros. Few people know that Goji is hiding the common wolfberry. The plant, also known as Chinese wolfberry or common devil thread, is now also native to us and grows on some embankments. Goji berries are said to stimulate the metabolism and protect against wrinkles. However, scientific studies are largely lacking.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the fruits have been used for thousands of years to increase yin. According to the TCM, a lack of yin in the liver and kidney manifests itself through symptoms such as colds, night sweats, drowsiness, fatigue, exhaustion, diabetes, premature aging, weakness in the back and knees, dizziness, tinnitus and poor eyesight, anemia, overexertion, impotence, potency disorders and infertility. In addition, goji berries are used in China to treat high blood pressure, high blood sugar, to strengthen the immune system, for eye problems and to prevent and treat cancer. (ag)