Acai: Superfruit or Superscam?
Posted by Kate W on Monday, June 4th, 2012
It seems every time I walk through a drugstore or a big box store, or watch TV, or read an internet article, or even drive down the road, I am inundated with messages about how I can lose weight and stay young forever if I just start consuming vast quantities of acai berries. I am usually skeptical of weight-loss miracle pills even if they are all-natural. I decided to do a little research on this purportedly magical berry, because I know so little about it; to be quite frank, I don’t even know how to pronounce it.
Acai (or ah-sah-YEE, as I have now discovered) falls under the superfruit umbrella. Superfruit is a term coined in 2005 which refers to fruits that combine exceptional nutrient richness and antioxidant quality with an appealing enough flavor to inspire loyalty in consumers. There is no real scientific basis that qualifies a fruit as a superfruit; it is, in fact, really a marketing term.
Acai is a purple fruit, and is thus loaded with purple pigments called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that help reduce the premature aging of cells. As such, acai has been used in beauty products and has been heavily touted by Dr. Nicholas Perricone in his beauty guide The Perricone Promis, and on Oprah’s website as the number one superfood. Acai is rich in a variety of vitamins, including B6, C, A, folate, riboflavin, and thiamin, and has anti-inflammatory properties. It may also enhance energy.
What remains unproven is its effectiveness as a weight-loss tool. As I suspected, there is no scientific evidence that indicates acai will help you lose weight. That hasn’t stopped opportunistic marketers from promoting it in the high-dollar weight-loss supplement market. Not only do people spend a lot of money on a product that doesn’t necessarily do what it’s purported to do, they often end up being scammed by fraudsters who offer them a great deal and wind up charging recurring payments onto the customer’s credit card. Though it is worth mentioning that scammers are not the only ones making money; tens of thousands of families in Brazil are supporting themselves by harvesting acai due to the high demand, so at least someone is benefitting.
Though acai won’t probably won’t help you lose weight if you blend it into a milkshake, it can be beneficial as part of a balanced diet. It offers a vast array of nutrients, and may help energize you when you consume it along with other nutrient-rich foods. Just be sure to procure yours through a reputable source, and remember when something seems too good to be true, it often is.
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