Is Acai Berry Good for You or is This Fad Fruit a Fraud?

By Leah Lancione

The acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) berry is a small purplish red fruit that comes from the Central and South American acai palm tree. Like its relative, the blueberry, this fruit contains a high level of antioxidants—even more than blueberries, cranberries or strawberries—which are often touted for their disease prevention qualities. Also like blueberries, acai is packed with flavanoids which help protect cells in the body from harmful free radicals. According to the National Cancer Institute, a free radical is  a highly reactive chemical that often contains oxygen and is produced when molecules are split to give products that have unpaired electrons (a process called oxidation). Free radicals can damage important cellular molecules such as DNA or lipids or other parts of the cell.

The acai berry, which is usually sold in juice form, has been praised by many for its health and potential weight loss and metabolism-boosting benefits. However, the research on the acai berry is not 100 percent conclusive. According to WebMD studies do reveal that the pulp from acai berries contain more antioxidants than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries. And, it is well known that “eating a diet rich in antioxidants may interfere with aging and the disease process by neutralizing free radicals.” However, there are no definitive studies that place the acai berry above these other fruits in a category of its own, and the weight loss claims promoted by commercial acai supplements, juices, or acai-based diet plans, have not been substantiated by scientific evidence.

In fact, the American Dietary Association announced that though the acai berry has been promoted as a cure for conditions like diabetes and chronic illness, “science doesn’t support these claims.” It even goes further to say that though studies in Texas and the University of Florida reveal that people absorb acai berry antioxidants, no human studies have yet found special health benefits from consuming it.

Another study conducted by Texas AgriLife Research scientists and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, also confirms the significance of the human body absorbing the acai berry’s numerous antioxidants.  Lead Investigator Dr. Susanne Talcott noted, “Acai is naturally low in sugar, and the flavor is described as a mixture of red wine and chocolate, so what more would you want from a fruit?”

So, is it a super food or just a super fraud? Based on the research, a diet that includes fruits that are high in antioxidants supports weight loss and disease prevention. Just don’t go to the extreme and stock your cabinets with acai formulas, capsules, supplements or cleansers thinking you’ve discovered the secret elixir to defying age, boosting energy and losing weight. Some irresponsible fad diet regimes actually claim you can lose 30 pounds in 30 days all because of the secret ingredient—the acai berry. This potential super food has even received publicity from Oprah Winfrey. Oprah’s website even lists the acai berry as renowned clinical and research dermatologist Dr. Perricone’s “#1 Super Food.” So, should you make a huge investment in this fruit? No. But it is surely a food that you’d be smart to add to your already diverse diet of assorted berries, leafy green vegetables and heart-healthy nuts.

For more information about the acai berry, check these websites, which were consulted in writing this article:    

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