Acai Berry: Healthy or Hype?

Is the acai berry the healthy superfood it’s touted to be?

Do they help prevent disease?

Do they really help with weight loss?

These are the questions I hear often from clients and friends and I thought you might want to know the answer too.

The acai berry is a purple fruit that comes from the acai palm tree, native to Central and South America. It contains powerful antioxidants, including anthocyanins (responsible for the purple color), flavonoids and polyphenols.

These antioxidants help defend against stress to the body, and play a role in protecting cells. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, helping to ward against the effects of aging and diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Are acai berries the best for antioxidants?

In a comparative study of juice pulps, acai scored lower on the antioxidant front than strawberry, grapes, mango and acerola.

In another study on a freeze-dried acai product, antioxidant levels were much lower compared to blueberries and other antioxidant-rich fruits.

In a comparison of three acai juice blends with other juices, red wine and tea, the acai antioxidant capacity ranked lower than red wine, pomegranate, concord grape and blueberry juices. It was comparable to black cherry and cranberry juice, and higher than tea, orange and apple juices.

Note that acai juice blends do not disclose the percentage of acai contained in them.

The internet is abuzz with how the acai berry can make us healthier, from reversal of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses, increasing men’s sexual virility and most notably, promoting weight loss.

There are no scientifically controlled studies that back up these claims and no scientific evidence that consuming acai affects body weight. The potential benefits of acai are based on preliminary lab studies, so we don’t know the actual benefit in the body.

The use and marketing of acai berry supplements has led to enforcement efforts in 2010 due to the “scam” nature of deceptive offers and lack of efficacy, being called by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre “a major international problem”.

Many acai supplement offerings say “free trials” and ask for billing information to cover shipping and handling. What people don’t realize is that they’ve agreed to recurring shipments until they cancel, leading to monthly charges of $45 - $95. Fake blogs with fictional testimonials are also common.

Oprah Winfrey sued 5o internet sellers of acai berry supplements for use of her image in deceptive advertising. The Federal Trade Commission sued Coast Nutraceuticals for false claims that their acai berry dietary supplements could cause weight loss or prevent cancer.

Would I take an acai supplement?

No, because there are better berries and fruits out there to get my antioxidants and I could never be sure just how much acai is in the supplement.

If you plan to take one, consult with your doctor as acai may trigger or worsen swelling, ulcers, high blood pressure or intestinal bleeding and it could possibly interfere with an MRI. It can also interact with OTC and prescription pain killers and could block the effectiveness of cancer drugs.

Bottom line: There are no known health benefits of the acai berry that’s any better or different than other antioxidant-rich fruits.

When the health claims of acai are reviewed, experts concluded in 2011 that acai is more internet marketing hype than scientific substance.

However, there is plenty of research that supports eating a diet rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidants protect the body from harmful, excess free radicals, sweeping them up before they can cause damage. These naturally occurring compounds can help prevent heart disease, stroke and cancer, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and aid in the prevention of glaucoma and macular degeneration.

They help our immune system and provide stronger resistance to the flu, viruses and infections. Antioxidants also slow the effects of aging.

While berries like blueberries and strawberries top the list of antioxidant-rich foods, there are other great fruits and veggies to include: red grapes, greens like kale and broccoli, cherries, pomegranates, mangos, tomatoes, cantaloupe, artichokes, red beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic.

Other foods get notable mention as well: beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and spices like cinnamon and oregano.

Eat em up!

Go from Acai Berry to Healthy Diet Plan