Acai: All it’s cracked up to be?
You may have been hearing a lot about Acai (ah-sa-EE) berry supplements or acai juice lately. Acai is an antioxidant-rich palm fruit that grows in South America, and is widely cultivated and consumed in various forms throughout that region. Acai berries are round, dark-purple and about 1 inch in diameter, similar to a grape and grow in bunches that contain hundreds of individual fruits. Two crops of berries are produced each year.Interest in Acai berries and Acai products has grown with the discovery that the fruits have an exceptional nutritional profile, including high levels of antioxidants, amino acids and nutritional fats. Seeking to capitalize on this interest, a great many Acai products and brands have come onto the market in a relatively short period of time. Some make exaggerated or unsubstantiated claims. Perhaps even more significantly, several high-profile individuals such as Dr. Nicholas Perricone and Oprah Winfrey have publicized Acai supplements and purported great benefits from using them. This has further intensified interest and demand, drawing even more Acai products to the market, with ever more-attractive health claims. Quite a few AllStarHealth customers have asked us to comment on the new popularity and legitmacy of Acai supplements. From these questions, it’s clear that someone somewhere is making some pretty tall claims about Acai: Is it really anti-aging? Does it get rid of joint pain? Is it better than Viagra?
What we can say is that Acai is a good source of antioxidants. All antioxidants, whether from Acai or any other source, slow-down some of the processes that contribute to the physical aging process. So not just acai, but any antioxidant could be considered ‘anti-aging’ in that sense. Apart from antioxidant benefits, what about the other claims people have made about Acai such as joint pain improvement, better skin, more energy and increased sex drive? There’s not much research to support these claims, it’s mostly a case of anecdotal evidence; “My neighbor says ever since she started using Acai she no longer has knee pain” or “Ever since I started using Acai I have better (mood, energy, sex drive, memory, joint function).” Well, it’s great if people are getting these benefits, but we could never promise that you’d experience the same; the most we could say is try Acai if you’re interested in it, because that’s the only way to find out exactly what Acai can do (or not do) for you. Furthermore, it’s hard to give a straightforward comment about Acai because there are so many types of Acai products, with varying levels and types of acai compounds, almost always mixed in with other antioxidant rich compounds. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing trivial about the importance of antioxidants, that’s what’s behind everything you’ve heard about the health benefits of blueberries, red wine, pomegranate, cherries and grape juice. Like these other superfoods, Acai is a great source of beneficial antioxidants, but it’s too soon to call it a panacea, fountain-of-youth or miracle supplement.