Açai is the new super fruit?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
It is claimed that Acai is high in antioxidants compared to other fruits. Among the numerous benefits attributed to Acai are increased energy levels, improved digestion, detoxification, high, improved skin appearance, improved heart health, improved sleep, and reduction of cholesterol levels. More dubious claims include reversal of diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Açai is most commonly marketed as a weight loss product.
WHAT WE KNOW
The Acai (pronounced ah-sah-EE) berry is the fruit of the Acai palm, one of many species of palms, which is native to Central and South America. Several studies have been done on the antioxidant activity of the juice or fruit pulp (including a freeze-dried form of supplement). Generally, they agree that Acai berry exhibits antioxidant activity but, depending on the methods used to define "antioxidant activity," the conclusions about the Acai berry’s specific potency vary. Acai studies have not been evaluated (in the U.S.) by the FDA, and their accuracy is questionable.
Acai juices sell for as much as $40 per bottle. The expensive acai berry seems more like a triumph of marketing over science. It’s not useless, but it’s not as SUPER as people are claiming it is.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
A 2008 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry used four different methods of testing antioxidant activity in fruit juices. Results indicated that Acai berry juice had less antioxidant activity than red wine, pomegranate juice, concord grape juice, and blueberry juice, equivalent activity to black cherry and cranberry juices, and more antioxidant activity than orange or apple juices. Further, we know that all fruits provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and other substances such as phytonutrients that are important for health in addition to their antioxidant activity. Like most fruits, acai has good nutritional qualities, but there is no good research that supports marketing claims that are made for it.
Because the pulp of the acai berry is so delicate, it is currently available only in juice form which can be found in the refrigerated or freezer section of natural food stores. Like all fruits, Acai berry contains antioxidants as well as other important nutrients. There is currently no clear evidence of any superiority in the action of Acai berry’s antioxidants when compared to other types of fruits. Try it if you’re curious, but at times like these when everyone is watching their food budget, your hard-earned dollars are probably better spent buying a great variety of produce, whether fruits or vegetables. Consumers should be skeptical whenever any one food seems too good to be true and should not rely on one "miracle food" to boost health.