ACAI- A miracle berry?

As a fitness professional, I get asked from time to time whether a certain ‘health’ product or supplement will help someone lose weight. One such product which has received much media attention recently and is heavily marketed as a super rich antioxidant is the ‘acai’ (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry.  The acai berry is a small round berry almost similar to the blueberry and is only found in the dense, difficult to access swampy areas of the Brazilian Amazonian rain forest. Acai berry is found on tall slender palm trees that grow up to 30 meters. The Acai berry in this region has been used by the natives as a health food and for medicinal purposes; to cure certain ailments for a long time. This berry is perishable and must be immediately consumed or frozen to retain its nutritional value. It is because of this that the acai berry is difficult to transport from deep in the Amazonian forest to the western world.

 In the modern world, the acai berry has been publicized greatly and has been heavily marketed as a weight loss product. Some of the promises that acai berry products make besides weight loss are that of increased energy, improved metabolism, less fatigue, promoting youth, better sexual function, improved complexion, an exceptional antioxidant and the list goes on and on. Some acai berry products even claim to improve cholesterol, diabetes and prevent cancers! While much confusion exists about this miracle berry, one thing is for sure- there isn’t a shortage of the types of acai berry products available- most of them promising weight loss! For example, there is acai berry juice, smoothies, teas, energy drinks, capsules and even candy, ice-cream and chocolate.  There are websites promoting the endless health benefits of the acai berry enticing consumers to buy in with offers of ‘free trail’ products. With alluring pictures of lean toned bodies and celebrity clientele promising weight loss, many consumers are lured into buying acai products. Some sites even contain ‘warnings’ about other acai products and stating that only their acai products are pure and most nutritious while others are a scam.

 If you are familiar with acai berry, you might have at some point thought about purchasing this miracle product that claims to deliver all. Well, before you do, know this:  The Center for Science in the Public Interestis warning consumers not to enroll online in supposedly free trials of diet products made with the trendy Brazilian berry acai. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that acai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions. And thousands of consumers have had trouble stopping recurrent charges on their credit cards when they cancel their free trials”.  Along with that, the Better Business Bureau has warned consumers to beware of internet companies that sell these scam weight loss acai berry products. It also warns consumers of bogus blogs with fake ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos.

Certain internet companies also market the acai berry as the most powerful antioxidant. While it is true that the acai berry has some antioxidants, according to the CSPI, the acai berry has only middling levels of antioxidants. You would obtain the same in a piece of dark chocolate or a glass of red wine. Bottom line is that there are no conclusive studies about the acai berry and none that suggest that antioxidants have an affect on weight loss!  

 So what about those natives and indigenous tribes who have benefited from consuming this so called superfood and miracle berry? Is it really the berry or their lifestyle? If we look at the indigenous people who consume this berry, their lifestyle is active, their diet quite clean and healthy. Their toned muscles and fitness is probably a result of their active   lifestyle and not because of consuming a berry. After all, doesn’t exercise and a healthy lifestyle promote weight loss, increased energy, low cholesterol levels, better sleep, increased metabolism, reverse the ageing process, better digestion, and countless other health benefits – all that the acai berry products claim to do?

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