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Acai: All it’s cracked up to be?

December 10th, 2008

Acai berries. Most acai supplements use freeze-dried berries or juice.

Acai berries. Most acai supplements use freeze-dried berries or juice.

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?

Acai palm growing in Brazil.

Acai palm growing in Brazil.

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.

One Response to “Acai: All it’s cracked up to be?”

  1. December 26, 2008 at 8:24 pm, paul said:

    I have only been taking acai in a local juice mix from a grocery chain for a short time.If the stuff can be gotten in even more potent strength then it really is like viagra.I have been drinking about 6 oz of this rasberry/acai mix for about two weeks and have woke up in the morning with erections for the last week.I am not used to this as I am pushing 60 yo.I do have less joint pain and endurance is improved,too.I have been shoveling snow for this whole week and it is easier than I expected it to be.I attribute it to the acai as rasberries never did this before.I am looking for a good reliable source of the frozen fruit as how good is the freeze dried and can it be trusted to work as well as the fresh,frozen fruit?

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