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Goji berries are anti-estrogenic

A water-based extract of goji berry scientific name: Lycium barbarum has shown an anti-oestrogen effect in test-tube trials on human cells, write cancer researchers at the American Strang Cancer Prevention Center in Nutrition and Cancer. The extract stimulates the conversion of the active oestrogen estradiol into less active metabolites.

Studies suggest that goji berries may be useful in fighting cancer. Animal and cell studies have shown that extracts of goji berries make tumour cells more susceptible to radiation and immuno-therapy. They also inhibit the development of cancer cells and activate mechanisms which induce cancer cells to commit suicide.

The researchers boiled goji berries in water and then brought the resulting extract into contact with MCF-7, human cancer cells that need estradiol to grow.

The table below shows that the extracts inhibited the growth of the cells when estradiol was present. The longer the cells were exposed, and the higher the concentration of the extract, the greater the inhibitory effect.

Goji berries are anti-estrogenic

When the researchers oberved what happened to the estradiol in the cells, they discovered that the concentration of estradiol declined, and the concentration of the metabolites estrone [E1], 2-hydroxy-estrone [2OH-E1], 16alpha-hydroxy-estrone [16alpha-OH1] and estriol [16alpha-hydroxy-estradiol] [E3] rose.

Goji berries are anti-estrogenic

Goji berries are anti-estrogenic

The concentration of estriol rises. Estriol stimulates the growth of cancer cells. The increase in this metabolite is over compensated for however by the other metabolic effects of the goji extract. The other metabolites, which increase in concentration, have little effect on the estradiol receptor and actually inhibit the vitality of estradiol-sensitive cancer cells.

The researchers were curious to know whether goji-extracts can be used to make breast cancer chemotherapy more effective. Doctors use heavy chemo sessions, but these have many side effects. Goji berries do not have side effects. If goji-extracts could enhance the effect of cytostatics, doctors could use less of the latter.

Vitamin guru Earl Mindell used this study to promote goji berries as a natural remedy for breast cancer. Mindell worked at the time for FreeLife International, the manufacturer of Himalayan Goji Juice. Co-author Leon Bradlow gave his response to this in an interview, saying that "his research does not, in fact, prove that goji has any anti-cancer properties and that there is currently no scientific evidence such effects occur in vivo".

It's not the first time researchers have written about the anti-estrogenic effects of different foods. Other food ingredients that have had anti-estrogenic effects ascribed to them include kelp, Ginkgo biloba, Damiana, vitamin K, fish oil, green tea, grapeseed-extract, soya protein, vitamin D, mangosteen and GLA.

Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(3):408-14.

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