Selling Goji Juice?
If you've already been researching goji juice a little, you probably came across a company called FreeLife. This is pretty much the largest company selling goji products, and not only sells goji juice itself, but makes much of its profits through an affiliate marketing network. Instead of going too deeply into whether the hype about goji juice is really more than... hype, I'd like to simply give an overview of CBC broadcast from 2007 that exposed a number of things about FreeLife and goji juice in general. I have been following goji juice since the early days of the hype, back in the early 2000s, and from what I can tell, FreeLife was the primary agent responsible for pushing the hype in the early days, and was quickly copied by many other companies. One reason they were so successful is because they had the backing of "Dr. Earl Mindell", whose credentials have now come into question (see below).
You can watch the CBC program here, or read a quick summary below:
I do, however, want to encourage you to read the section of this website on Goji Berry Nutrition Information, because I go into detail there about why eating the berries may be more beneficial than the juice (this broadcast was specifically about the (pasteurized) juice, not the berry!
Dr Steven Sager, of McMaster University in Ontario, looked at many of the studies on the Goji berry. He
researches natural health products for cancer treatment:
"Modern science has not anywhere near proven that the goji berry has any effect on practically any of the ailments that they are claiming it has an effect on. They are extrapolating out of context some laboratory studies... You have to be quite suspicious that it's really being overhyped." He says that the polysaccharides in Goji could have health benefits but without more human studies there's little proof to back up the hype. He continues, "If you're going to market something and say it does something and you haven't done the research to show that, then it's basically deceipt ... expensive deceipt for people who are buying it for that particular purpose".
As Marketplace reported, Dr. Earl Mindell, who was the original face behind FreeLife (the primary driving force of Goji Juice's popularity via MLM marketing in the early days of goji juice hype), is not a medical doctor and his PhD is in nutrition from an unaccredited university.
Dr. Earl Mindell apparently claims his Himalayan Goji Juice product is possibly the most nutritionally dense food on the planet.
CBC's laboratory tests showed this about Himalayan Goji Juice:
~ vitamin C: it has a little more than orange juice
~ Beta carotene: undetectable
~ Vitamin B & E: barely detectable
~ Protein: negligible, almost no protein.
"When it comes to the most basic nutrition this $50 bottle is pretty similar to other juices. The berry might have more nutrition but they're selling juice, not the berry."
Freelife literature and agents claimed that the infamous Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute uses goji juice on it's patients. A spokesperson for the Institute states: "They are making false claims. The data do not support the use of this product for cancer patients... No-one here has ever done any research on goji juice or lycium barbarum. And no-one here has ever given or prescribed... either of these substances to any of our patients."
A study by a Dr. Bradlow is often used to imply that goji can prevent cancer. Marketplace interviewed Dr. Bradlow and he was shocked to hear he was being misrepresented. He states: "We never said [goji] prevented cancer. We said it inhibited the growth of cells in a dish... A little dish like this isn't the same as a person.... There's no justification for encouraging people to take this as an anti-cancer drug... It's misrepresentation of the facts."
Personally, it is my hope that someday goji berries will be just as common in North America as blueberries, raspberries and grapes. This would be a huge benefit to our society in terms of nutrition and health, since a higher diversity on the market would be great, all berries are high in antioxidants, and goji berries are no exception. But until then, goji berries will remain a high-priced product in the functional foods industry, slowly decreasing in price as more and more people buy the juice and actual berries. Already we can see the prices coming down with the increased popularity. This includes prices on the juice, sold through the marketing network as well as through regular companies, and the berries.