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LE Magazine January 2007
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Replenishing the Aging Body’s Antioxidant Defenses

By Laurie Barclay, MD

Wolfberry’s capacity to boost SOD activity may benefit the pancreas, the insulin-producing organ that malfunctions in diabetes. When pancreatic cells were exposed to alloxan (a drug that instigates diabetes by generating superoxide radicals), their protective SOD activity declined dramatically. Adding wolfberry polysaccharides to the oxidative stress-damaged pancreatic cells helped to preserve the cells’ essential SOD activity, thus conferring protection against damaging agents that may contribute to the development of diabetes.46

Wolfberry’s effects in neutralizing oxidative stress may offer additional benefits for diabetes management. Scientists induced diabetes and high cholesterol in test animals by exposing them to alloxan. After the subjects were treated with wolfberry juice or polysaccharides for 10 days, they demonstrated several beneficial changes in blood chemistry markers, including reductions in blood sugar, serum total cholesterol, and triglycerides, and marked increases in beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL).47 In this study, wolfberry polysaccharides and amino acids had the greatest effect on blood sugar, whereas wolfberry polysaccharides and antioxidants showed the most benefit on blood lipids.47 Previous studies have shown that wolfberry polysaccharides produce beneficial reductions in potentially dangerous low-density lipoprotein (LDL),48 and that wolfberry flavonoids help limit lipid peroxidation caused by oxygen radicals.49 These studies suggest that wolfberry provides a host of protective benefits against biochemical agents that instigate diabetes and contribute to its damaging effects in the body.

To assess whether wolfberry enhances male sexual performance and fertility, Chinese scientists administered wolfberry extract to partially castrated male rats and mouse testicular cells in the laboratory. Compared to control animals, the partially castrated male rats treated with wolfberry demonstrated higher SOD activity, enhanced secretion of sex hormones, increased testicular weight, and improved sperm quantity and quality. Wolfberry boosted their sexual performance and reproductive function, and also protected the DNA of mouse testicular cells against oxidative damage caused by hydrogen peroxide, with higher doses proportionately more effective than lower doses.50 These findings support wolfberry’s reputation as an aphrodisiac and fertility-facilitating agent, providing a modern scientific rationale for wolfberry’s centuries-old use in managing infertility and promoting sexual health in males.

Wolfberry’s ability to boost SOD activity may even help prevent visible signs of aging. In a research model of skin aging, an extract of wolfberry and bergamot (sour orange) significantly increased both SOD activity and collagen content in the skin. This same botanical combination also promoted hair growth.51 Other studies of aging subjects have shown that treatment with wolfberry increased SOD activity in red blood cells while decreasing levels of harmful compounds in the skin.52 In human skin cells, wolfberry extract has displayed important skin-protective properties.53 These studies indicate that extracts of wolfberry contribute to healthy skin and hair.

Modern Science Confirms Wolfberry’s Health Benefits

Scientific studies have confirmed that wolfberry offers a wealth of health-enhancing benefits: promoting youthful energy, preserving vision, optimizing brain health, increasing longevity, and protecting against conditions related to oxidative stress.

  • All too many people suffer from waning energy levels as they grow older. New evidence suggests that wolfberry extract may help aging adults restore youthful energy levels. When test subjects consumed wolfberry, they became highly resistant to fatigue and were able to endure a greater exercise load. When the subjects did become fatigued, they recovered much more quickly. Scientists determined that this greater resilience was related to an increased ability to store glycogen (a form of glucose energy) in the muscles and liver. Glycogen helps provide the energy required for exercise and strenuous activity, and supports the elimination of metabolic wastes following exercise. Wolfberry thus helps the body to fuel itself for high-energy activity.54
  • As a rich source of the nutrients known to support eye health, wolfberry may offer powerful protection for healthy vision. People seeking to maintain healthy visual function with aging often supplement with zinc and other minerals, carotenoids, and vitamin C, all of which are found in naturally high concentrations in wolfberry. Compared to other plant foods thought to help prevent age-related vision loss, wolfberry has the highest concentration of the dietary carotenoid zeaxanthin.55 Along with lutein, zeaxanthin accumulates in the macula, the region of the eye’s retina responsible for detailed vision. Zeaxanthin is believed to protect against oxidative damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet light. This photoexposure is a major culprit in age-related macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of irreversible vision loss with aging. When 14 volunteers consumed 15 grams of wolfberry daily for 28 days, they demonstrated dramatically increased blood levels of zeaxanthin, about 2.5-fold higher.56 Scientists believe that increased intake of foods containing zeaxanthin may be effective in preventing age-related macular degeneration. Wolfberry may be an ideal choice, since a modest daily intake provides bioavailable zeaxanthin that markedly increases plasma zeaxanthin levels.
  • In addition to its benefits for the body, wolfberry may help keep the mind young. In a research model of cognitive aging, treatment with wolfberry was associated with enhanced learning ability and improved memory capacity.52 Wolfberry may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of memory-robbing dementia. Using a laboratory model of Alzheimer’s, scientists found that wolfberry protected brain cells from the harmful effects of amyloid beta peptides, damaging agents that are linked to the pathological changes seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. These findings suggest that wolfberry may hold value in preventive or therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s disease.57
  • Preliminary laboratory studies suggest other health-promoting applications of wolfberry. Utilizing a model of aging, researchers found that wolfberry increased the rate at which cells produced the genetic material DNA, while prolonging the cells’ life span. Agents that extend the lives of cells could one day find applications in lengthening human life spans.58
  • Evidence from the laboratory and early clinical studies suggests a potential therapeutic role for wolfberry in preventing and managing diseases associated with oxidative stress. Since oxidative stress plays a role in a vast array of illnesses, this suggests possible applications for wolfberry in averting heart disease, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, some types of cancer, and premature aging, among other disorders.6,44

Conclusion

Scientists and aging adults increasingly recognize that optimizing the body’s antioxidant defenses is critical to fighting disease and avoiding the effects of biological aging. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is one of the most powerful antioxidants for fighting inflammation, disease, pain, and the effects of aging. By quenching the dangerous superoxide radical, SOD works at the cellular level to prevent damage to crucial proteins, DNA, and lipids that support essential cellular activities.

Breakthroughs in nutritional science have led to the development of orally ingested, highly bioavailable forms of SOD. Combining orally available SOD with wolfberry offers a highly effective strategy to boost SOD levels and activity in the body. This novel combination protects against pain and inflammation, helps prevent a host of degenerative diseases, restores youthful energy and vitality, and promotes a long and healthy life span.

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