Goji going strong: South Korean firm Huons explores berry as functional ingredient for muscle health

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

South Korean company Huons is exploring the use of goji berries in improving muscle strength. ©Getty Images
South Korean company Huons is exploring the use of goji berries in improving muscle strength. ©Getty Images

Related tags South korea Muscle goji berries

South Korean biotech company Huons is developing a functional ingredient based on goji berry together with Hanyang University to help improve muscle strength.

The company, a major health and nutrition player in the South Korean industry, said this was to cater to the unmet needs of an ageing society.

It pointed out that there was “no clear therapeutic agent” ​that could treat muscle atrophy and muscle loss arising from chronic diseases and ageing, and the common solution was mainly protein supplements. 

It added that the demand for protein products associated with muscle health was of a sizeable amount, since it was among the top five most imported health foods​ in South Korea last year.

At this stage, animal studies by the researchers have found that supplementation of goji berry per day could improve muscle protein synthesis and inhibit muscle degradation.

“Through animal experiments, the research team confirmed that it has the function of improving muscle strength by improving calf thickness and muscle weight,”​ the company said in a statement.

It added that the ingredient worked by regulating the expression of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) – a signalling pathway involved in muscle synthesis.

It also regulates the muscle RING-finger protein-1 (MuRF1) which is involved in skeletal muscle atrophy when there is an upregulation of the gene.

As a functional material, the possibility of toxicity and side effects is also low when it is developed as a functional material, and so, it can be commercialised into a variety of products such as health functional foods,” ​the company said. 

Huons and Hanyang University signed a cooperation that gives Huons exclusive rights to the technology involved in making the ingredient.

The lead researchers of the project are Professor Kim Chul-Young and Professor Lee Chul Hoon from Hanyang University College of Pharmacy.

The aim now is to develop an ingredient for use in health functional foods and supplements.

“We will quickly develop it into an individual ingredient certified for improving muscle strength by using new natural materials introduced from Hanyang University,”​ said Huons CEO Um Key An.

Existing findings

While goji is commonly associated with eye health, there are already existing studies which showed that it has benefits for muscle health.

An animal study conducted by Chinese researchers​ found that mice supplemented with goji extract had increased tibial anterior muscle (front muscle in the leg), gastrocnemius muscle (calf muscle), and a longer average running distance.

Another in vitro study, conducted by South Korean researchers​, found that goji extract (Lycium chinense​) and its bioactive compound, betaine, could prevent the dysfunction of skeletal muscle.

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