Lose weight! Feel more energetic! Fight aging! Improve your sex life! Can one little purple berry do this much good? Some say its super-high antioxidant count makes the tropical acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry a true superfruit; others are not so sure.

Acai berry pulp and extract is found in everything from smoothies to skin creams to supplements that promise a miraculous change of life. The berry, which is harvested from palm trees that grow deep in the Amazon rainforest, contains vitamin C, B vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants similar to those found in other berries and fruits. The juice of the acai berry is popular in Amazon villages, and the same tree yields the vegetable product we know as "hearts of palm."

A wonder fruit it is not, however. The hype that surrounds these berries comes mainly from the people who produce and sell supplements and other acai products, not from food scientists who have found anything to distinguish this particular berry from any others. Unfortunately, many of the beneficial nutrients found in the fruit are easily destroyed during the manufacturing process. The nutrients and phytochemicals that are preserved in the frozen acai pulp and juice used in food products are the same as those found in grapes and blueberries.

When acai berry concentrate is used in foods and beverages, many of the nutrients are preserved and well absorbed by the body, according to research performed at Texas A&M University. That means you can certainly add acai berry food products to the list of fruits and vegetables you eat to stay healthy. Acai berry supplements, however, are another matter.

In 2009, as result of internet advertising of acai berry weight loss supplements and other nutritional products, consumers were scammed out of $30 million by one company alone, according the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 2010, a federal district court ordered the company to temporarily halt sales and deceptive advertising while FTC pursues a permanent prohibition. The deceptive advertising included false statements about research backing up weight loss claims and celebrity endorsements Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray that were never actually given. In addition, the company in question made unauthorized charges to consumer credit and debit accounts after consumers responded to misleading advertisements for free trial-period offers.

Legitimate research is being conducted to see if acai extracts actually have disease-fighting capabilities or if the berry itself provides more or different antioxidant power than other fruits. Until the results are in, however, your best bet is to skip the supplements, enjoy acai berry for its unique wine-and-chocolate-like flavor, knowing it may be helping you meet some of your daily vitamin and mineral requirements.  No more, no less.



Federal Trade Commission. 16 Aug 2010. Web. 30 Oct 2010.

Philips, K. "Research Shows Brazilian Acai Berry Antioxidants Absorbed by Human Body." Texas A&M University. 6 Oct 2008. Web. 30 Oct 2010.