Besides having a cool, squigly tail at the bottom of the “c”, açaí berries are interesting for other reasons. This round purple black fruit, comes from Euterpe oleracea, or açaí palm, and is native to Brazil, Trinidad and other South American countries. The popularity of açaí berries has grown tremendously over the last couple of years, due to their touted health benefits. But, are these health benefits real, overhyped or just plain marketing lies? Let’s go into this in a bit more detail and find out.
Weight loss I’ve decided to tackle this one first, since this is widely searched for on the internet. Açaí berry is promoted by certain tv personalities, as a weight loss supplement, which has contributed to increased internet searches for açaí over the last couple of years. Well, sorry to disappoint you. I’ve found nothing but anecdotal evidence (we know how accurate that is) of açaí helping with weight loss. I have yet to find a single controlled scientific study, that supports the hype of açaí berry extract, powder or juice being effective in weight management. I have no idea how these claims are being made. There is nothing to support them and yet people are spending money on all these açaí weight loss supplements. This just goes to show the power of tv and internet marketing (can you think of anything else that sells, solely based on marketing power and not actual usefulness?). Wanna lose weight?, cut out the simple carbs and sugars.
Anticancer Another interesting one. Açaí may actually help in this case, but not for the reasons you might think. There are few studies done on the effects of açaí on cancer. Of those conducted, the majority have been done in test tube/petri dish environments. Essentially the açaí is being applied directly to the cancer cells, which does not translate to how it is utilized by a human body. There is one animal study that shows it can prevent the spread of urothelial cancer (in the bladder). The study was conducted over a 10 week period and the mice were fed a diet of acai pulp . Now this shows some promise, but we still don’t know how this would work in an actual human trial. More studies need to be conducted, certainly more human studies, to determine how effective this fruit is in anticancer prevention.
Metabolic factors This is just a fancy way of saying, the effects of açaí on blood glucose, cholesterol and insulin levels. There is one study that I found that examined this and consisted of 10 overweight adults who took 100 g açai pulp twice daily for 1 month. The results of the study showed that there were reductions in fasting glucose levels, cholesterol and insulin. The participants knew exactly what they were receiving and no steps were taken to prevent the presence of a placebo effect. This sort of study is good in that it provides some direction for a larger controlled study, where neither participants nor researchers know which treatment is being given (double blind). By itself, this study cannot say conclusively whether açaí is truly able to improve metabolic factors . I point this out, because so many health websites are citing this study as proof that açaí is heart healthy, which is sort of jumping the gun.
Summary This might seem like a very limited list, and….well, yes, it is. The trouble here is that there are so many claims and very little evidence to back any of it up. I decided to deal with the main claims and see what the evidence looks like. As you can see there is a dearth of evidence and it seems that it is really only celebrities that are endorsing this berry. Look, there might be some benefits, but unless there is some scientific studies to back up these claims, I wouldn’t go rushing out to buy these expensive berries or supplements. Eat some blueberries, in fact pretty much any berry, or other fruit and vegetable with high antioxidant content and vitamins. So, till later, keep on eating healthy and add some exercise to your regimen, for overall health.
P.S. The Healthy Goat was seen boarding a plane to Brazil, in search of the mythical açaí berry to add to his smoothies. Sigh, no one told him he could purchase it right here in the good old US of A. He was last spotted, running from a hungry anaconda, heading north towards Venezuela. Local authorities were on hand at the border to apprehend him, due to the trouble he caused, the last time he was there.