Acai berry has made headlines in recent years as a supposed new “wonder food”: it has been claimed to help with everything from rashes and the common cold to cancer and diabetes. What put it on the map, however, is the claim that it works miracles for weight loss. But for all that hype, why hasn’t it made it into the mainstream market? Does it really do everything it’s said to do? Here are the straight facts on acai berry to help you make your choice.
Brazilians have long used acai berries, the fruit of the acai palm, to cure skin conditions. They brew acai seeds into tea to help bring down fever, and use acai root as a natural remedy for various aches and pains. In North America, the berry was first marketed as a high source of antioxidants, chemicals that help fight against disease. Science backs up this claim, but whether these antioxidants have any effect on humans remains to be proven. There’s also evidence that it kills cancer cells, but again, there are no results directly showing human benefits.
Supplement companies chose to overlook that detail, however, and began touting acai as a miracle food. In 2008, acai products sold for a staggering $108 million, riding claims that it packed ten times more antioxidants than other fruits and offers a range of other good stuff, from amino acids to fiber to omega-3 fatty acids. It was also claimed to fight a long list of diseases, and promote weight loss. In other words, what you’ve read on acai is essentially thin science that’s been grossly exaggerated.
This isn’t to say that the products are bad—just that they probably won’t do what they promise to. Although there’s no research proving that acai berry will cure cancer or help you shed those pounds, there’s none that says it’s bad for you either. As long as it’s FDA approved, it’s likely safe to consume the products, but don’t expect it to work miracles.
If you’re after the antioxidant content, there are lots of other sources that, unlike acai berry, have been proven on humans. Most fruits and vegetables pack a good dose, but blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries are among the best sources. Beans and artichoke hearts top the list among vegetables. You can also get them in tea and coffee; green tea is especially known for its high levels as well as other health benefits.