Juice bar in Manaus, Brazil

Acai berry palm tree

During a recent trip to the Amazon region of Brazil I got to see "up close and personal"  the palm trees that produce the acai berry (ah-sigh-EE) which has gained popularity across the U.S. as a "super food".  I also visited a juice bar in Manaus, the biggest city in the Amazon region and enjoyed a smoothie made from acai juice and other tropical fruits.  The acai berry has also been a key component for fad diets and is being added to cosmetics and other beauty products.     So, what is the fact, or fiction, surrounding this humble (but colorful) berry!

I spent an afternoon looking for scientific studies and found very little.   Most of the information available is from the popular press and on websites and blogs promoting and selling acai products (and,  of course,  raving about its health properties).

Acai berries contains anthocyanin and flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that help defend the body against life stressor's.  Antioxidants and other nutrients are  needed by the body to protect against cell damage.   The benefit of dietary antioxidants is that they slow the chemical process of oxidation by neutralizing free radicals that are harmful by-products made by the human body.  This oxidation is what causes narrowing of the arteries and heart-related problems due to cholesterol deposits. Antioxidants also may reduce the risks of certain forms of cancer but this still undergoing further study.

According to researchers at the Texas A & M University, the berry is naturally low in sugar and hints of a mixture of "red wine and chocolate".   These same researchers found that the pulp and juice of the berry is absorbed by the body so it is a good source of antioxidants.   The University of Florida is also doing research on acai.   At this time, there is no evidence that this berry is superior to other sources of antioxidants such as blueberries and strawberries so claims that it is a superfood are premature.

Claims made by makers of supplements that contain acai do raise concerns.   While acai berries by themselves contains beneficial antioxidants,  supplements usually contain other ingredients that may be unhealthy.   Caffeine is a common component of weight loss supplements and is known to cause head and stomach aches and other side effects.   Acai berries also contain some minerals that in large doses may be toxic to certain individuals.   If you have allergies to  pollens and trees, you could be susceptible to an allergen in the acai berry.

The bottom line, it's probably okay to try a smoothie made with acai (you may like it!), be skeptical of fad diets that make claims about huge weight loss due to the acai berry, and continue to watch for new, solid research as we learn more about this purple berry.

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Comments

Some people that used acai berry supplements say that the antioxidants are not absorbed and that processing the berries destroys the potential benefits.While acai berry supplements may make you healthier and be part of an overall weight loss program, there is no scientific evidence to support it.

I had no idea about this and will stop excessively drinking this acai berry drinks as much as I have been.

I have been drinking an Acai Berry drink for a few months now, and have noticed a some differences. I have a lot more energy and tend to sleep better at night. I remember back in the early 70's when Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw were always talking about free radicals and the effect on the body. thanks for the information.

, I hope you're wrong because if it's the case it will be a disaster....But as long as serious people do research on this product I dont see why it should be bad for our health..even if there is no immediate results, I think it's better to drink this kind of fruits instead of Coca Cola light!

The acai berry is just another thing that doesn't live up to its reputation, and soon we will find out that it causes cancer or something.

Wow this is interesting. It's amazing how products can be such a hype and produce little results. It's a wonder these companies stay in business. I will not be rushing out to buy Acai Berries. Thanks for taking the time to write this post.

Definitely a diet fad. Studies have show that pure cranberry juice has just about the same antioxidant capacity of acai berry juice.

I have used acai berry for a 3-4 months and i have not seen enough results so far.It's not worth!

I love to go to Brazil, the Acai capital of the world. They say that there are many beautiful tourist spots there. What are the places to visit there?

EDITOR'S NOTE: We visited Rio and also took a boat trip up the Amazon starting at Manaus. Very interesting.

I haven't use the acai berry to lose weight but like you I am very skeptical about it. I do my research online now days before I try any kind of diet but for the most part it's been people trying to make money promoting it as the next 'gold rush' of weight loss. It may be true but we'll wait and see. If it is that good then it should still be there in 5 to 10 years from now.

Acia is the biggest health supplement fad to come along in years, but I have not seen much results from it yet.

This is an interesting post indeed I was aware of the hype over these berries and the goodness they contain. I wasn't aware of the side effects that can come from the supplements. Thanks for the info!

I think your skepticism of fad diets is well-justified. In my lifetime I have seen diets for not just for acai berries but also for cabbage soup, grapefruit, low fat, low carb and tapeworms, among others. All of them promise results with no exercise. None of these diets work. Here's why:

The human animal evolved a remarkable capacity to survive periods of famine. When food is scarce (and hence when a person is forced to eat less) their metabolic rate drops. A lower metabolic rate means those few calories you are able to consume burn off more slowly.

This is where the exercise part of dieting is critical, and why dieting alone will never work. Exercise (and muscle mass) maintains a higher metabolic rate. So if you are trying to shed fat, eat right, but exercise too! And avoid fads :)

I'm not sure Acai berrie is helping lose weight but on the other hand it won't hurt you trying. thank you for sharing, I'll be back for updates.

This was some great information. I was wondering about this hype they call Acai and i wanted to try it, but after reading this i might walk to the other side of the river and keep gathering blueberries.

I think a lot of people have read or been told that antioxidants are important for fighting free radicals but aren't fully sure how to actually get antioxidants. The popularity of Acai berry products is probably due to a corporate exploitation of people's increasing desire to include antioxidants in their diet.

Agree that a healthy lifestyle will keep you healthy and the way this product is glamorized as a miracle cure is rubbish.
In fact anything will work given the right mindset

Thanks for your blog on the Acai berries. I do agreed with you that all these claims about huge weight loss by consuming Acai berries might not be true. How about this grain from South America also known as Quinoa.Do you agreed that having quinoa in our diets can help in maintaining or reducing weight gain as compared to eating white rice?

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the Acai berry, but I think there are a lot of equals out there too. Take the Australian bush plum, it likely equals the Acai berry in health benefits, but it has yet to reach the same fad status. People have jumped all over the marketability of the Acai berry which has boosted its popularity. In reality, an increase of many different fruits or vegetables will be just as beneficial, in my opinion. But if the AB is what gets people eating better then great.

Great article. I've been a fitness trainer for 7 years and I've heard alot about acai berries, but not as detailed as this thank you. I don't doubt that the acai berries be useful in weight loss and fitness training. But overall a proper nutrition diet with exercise is recommended, to add acai berry supplement for more energy and antioxidants would benefit the training for sure.

Hi, I'm working on bodybuilding program for three years, I have tried hundreds of supplements,most of it is useless,some of it really works. I have never heart about this Acai berry,but it's benefits sounds really good. I don't know, maybe this berry doesn't work good,but hey? No one forbids you to try. And agree with Dewald words: In fact anything will work given the right mindset

This is a very interesting article for us, did I realize
hype over this and the good fruit they contain. I did not realize the side effects that can come from supplements. Thank you for providing crucial information for us.

I'd also love to have unbiased information on acai berry diets. It's close to impossible to get the information online, because as you said, the information available come from people promoting acai berry products.

I think that as part of a balanced diet, Acai berry _could_ help lose weight but on the other hand, it could just be a placeebo effect.

I'm having all the trouble in the world trying to figure out whether acai's purported health benefits are any good. Having antioxidants doesn't necessarily mean it will improve your health, since links between antioxidants and health benefits aren't causal...

All in moderation and balance! Too many fads, too many extremes. People need to learn and maintain a healthy balance. Blueberry's have antioxidant properties but none of the side effects.

Its worth noting that indeed everything and anything is toxic at some level or another.

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