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Acai berry health claims – more hype than substance

 

The popular Brazilian acai berry has been touted as a “superfood” that can promote weight loss, reduce wrinkles, cleanse colons and bolster the immune system; however, a University of Missouri Extension nutrition & health education specialist encourages consumers to be skeptical.

 

“According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and a search of the National Institutes of Health database for “acai berry”, there are no human or animal research studies to support the acai berry health claims,” states Lynda Johnson, R.D. In addition, there is concern with online purchases of acai berry products. Many consumers have found that after providing a credit card to cover shipping charges for free trials, they almost immediately begin receiving $80 monthly charges and have trouble canceling the order.

 

Acai (pronounced a-sigh-EE) is sold on the Web and at health food stores in various forms including capsule, powder, pulp and juice. The products can be rather expensive. For instance, approximately 25 ounces of acai juice concentrate sells for $40. A market research firm for the natural products industry indicates Americans spent more than $108 million on acai products in the year ending on February 21, 2009, compared with $62 million the year before. The success of the acai berry demonstrates a marketing triumph, rather than scientific research. Johnson indicates the extraordinary, unsubstantiated health claims on these acai products are protected by the disclaimer in fine print on the label, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

 

Acai berries are not a miracle food; however, they can be part of a well-balanced diet rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Most berries are naturally rich in antioxidants and contribute the protective, anti-inflammatory benefit that reduces risk for chronic disease. Consider eating more fresh or frozen blueberries and strawberries, which are readily available and more economical. Eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day delivers plenty of antioxidants. Johnson suggests the extra antioxidants derived from these concentrated forms of acai berries may be unnecessary, and a drain on the food budget during these challenging economic times. Johnson said it pays to be skeptical, and don’t rely on one highly advertised, “silver bullet”-hyped food to improve your health or help you lose weight. There are no miracle foods.

 

For more information on health and wellness, contact Lynda Johnson, M.S., R.D., University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist at (660) 584-3658 or e-mail johnsonl@missouri.edu or visit http://extension.missouri.edu.

 

 

Sources:

Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, October, 2008.

Center for Science in Public Interest, March 23, 2009.

“No Matter How You Say It, Acai Comes With Some Pronounced Doubts”, Washington Post 3/31/09.

 

 

 

 

Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

 


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