Acai Berry (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is a fruit that comes from the açaí palm tree. The fruit is small, round, black-purple in color and about 1-inch in diameter.  It is similar to a grape but with less pulp

Recently, the acai berry has been marketed as a dietary supplement and super supplement.

There have been many health claims associated with this new ‘super food’,

but is it all marketing hype or true scientific fact?

Companies produce and sell acai berry products in many forms including tablets, juice, smoothies, instant drink powders, and whole fruit.

Some of the claims and remedies that have been attributed to acai include:

  • increased energy levels
  • improved sexual performance
  • improved skin appearance
  • better heart health
  • improved digestion
  • and weight loss

There have even been more blatant claims that include:

  • reversal of diabetes and other chronic illnesses
  • expanding size of the penis
  • increasing men’s sexual virility
  • increasing sexual attractiveness to women.

So the million dollar question – “Is it really a Super Juice or Is it Junk?”

According to Susan Donaldson of ABC News, these products have not been evaluated by the FDA and they have questionable efficacy.  And as of March 2009 no scientifically controlled studies have been done to back up any of the claims being made about the acai berry.

Quackwatch, a non-profit group fighting health related fraud, stated that “acai juice has only middling levels of antioxidants—less than that of Concord grape, blueberry, and black cherry juices, but more than cranberry, orange, and apple juices.”

During my own research, I discovered a couple of articles that provided some interesting information about both the acai berry and the mangosteen fruit.  Both of these articles came from recent issue of Environmental Nutrition. (Oct and Dec ’09)

The scientific journal researched some of the claims and the scientific research that has been done related to the acai berry and mangosteen fruit.

Here is what they found:

For both cases, there has been very little scientific backing for any of the claims being made.  There was one clinical study done on the acai berry that showed when people consumed a single serving of the juice that they did show an increase in the antioxidant capacity of their blood for the 12 hours following the dose.

This might sound impressive, but the same thing happens when you consume a serving of blackberries, blueberries of raspberries.

There was a separate study done that showed extracts from acai berries destroyed cancer cells in a culture dish.  Again very impressive except for the fact that other fruits such as mangos, guavas and grapes have been shown to do the same thing in cell studies.  There is no evidence that shows any of the fruits, including the acai, having these effects inside the human body.

Mangosteen studies show many of the same results.  Cell culture studies show mangosteen extracts stopping bacterial growth and improved insulin resistance in cultured cells.  Many foods with high antioxidant properties also show these properties, but again none of these studies have shown any benefit within the human body.

So apparently acai berry and mangosteen fruit do have benefits for us as humans but these benefits don’t seem to be any better than those that can be found in most fruit of similar quality.  But there doesn’t seem to be any clinical evidence that backs up the claims being made throughout the internet and on store shelves around the country.

But what about all those amazing and fantastic testimonials that can be found alongside the products?

Beware of testimonials.  You never know their validity and there is this thing called the placebo effect.  Many times the belief that a “pill” will cure you actually helps you get better.  The power of the human mind is amazing.  If you have little kids you will understand because you have seen the power of ‘Mommy’s kiss’ and a well placed bandaid to instantly stop the pain.

Be sure there is scientific evidence backing up the testimonials.

In conclusion, there has been no clinical scientific evidence supporting the many claims being touted by acai berry producers, but there has also not been anything that shows any risk or danger consuming the products.

You can probably get the same benefits from consuming a variety of fruits from your local store and do it at a lot less cost.

The choice is yours.  But it pays to do a little research before jumping on the miracle bandwagon of the week.

It’s something to think about!

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