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Acai Berries and Weight Loss

Do Acai berries really help with weight loss, or are the claims nothing but hype? These purple-blue Brazilian berries can be purchased in juice, powder, or capsule form (they cannot be shipped whole because they perish too quickly), and they’re often sold as weight loss supplements.

According to Hayashi (n.d.), Acai berries do not suppress appetite, speed the metabolism, or flatten the stomach. However, like many other berries, they are rich in antioxidants, so they may provide a number of health benefits ranging from cancer protection to overall slowing of the aging process.

However, research has shown that juices made from blueberries, grapes, pomegranates, and black cherries are actually higher in antioxidants than acai berry juice. Some studies have found that acai berries provide health benefits, but most have been industry funded (and most edible berries promote health, so this is nothing special).

Many people claim to have achieved health benefits or weight loss with acai berries, but it’s likely that these effects arise due to healthier eating overall (more fruit, less junk food) or placebo effects (belief that something will work can cause real physical changes in the body).

Acai berries are expensive because they must be imported, and packaging and importing products generates environmentally harmful greenhouse gas emissions, as well as materials that end up in landfills. In addition, the processing required to produce many acai berry products lowers their overall nutritional content, and supplements usually don’t work as well as whole foods in promoting health. There are plenty of relatively inexpensive, low-calorie, high-fiber, antioxidant-rich berries available locally, and they retain their health-promoting effects when frozen, so you can enjoy local berries year-round. All edible berries are good diet foods.

There have been a number of acai berry scams, including free trials that are anything but free. Even worse, a number of acai berry products were found to be contaminated with a prescription medication that can cause serious side effects and interact with other medications.

If you choose to purchase acai berry products, be careful. Do some research before you hand over your hard-earned money and put your health on the line.

Sources:
Hayashi, Y., “Acai Berries and Weight Loss: Separating Fact from Myth,” Canadian Living, n.d. http://www.canadianliving.com/health/health_and_wellness_club/acai_berries_and_weight_loss_separating_fact_from_myth.php
Health Canada, “Important Information About Acai Berry Products Containing Prescription Medication,” 15 January 2010. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2009/2009_197-eng.php
Sygo, J., “Challenging the Acai Berry,” National Post, 9 May 2011. http://www.nationalpost.com/life/Challenging+acai+berry/4753658/story.html

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