What does a health foods store, like GNC, and Starbucks have in common? They both sell product(s) made from acai berries. Acai berries are the small, deep purple fruit of acai palm trees (Euterpe oleracea), which are indigenous to Central and South America. These berries were popularized in the United States after Dr. Nicholas Perricone discussed the health benefits of the berries on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and they are currently considered a superfood in the U.S. and some European countries. If you take a break from reading this blog post and type in acai berries on Google, you will see millions of links discussing and supporting the health the benefits of consuming this miniature berry. Some of the health claims of acai berries are they have antimicrobial properties, have high antioxidant levels which protect against chronic heart diseases, improve weight loss, aid people in maintaining a health weight, aids in digestion, and boost the immune system. There are also health claims of acai berries providing energy, having anti aging effects, and preventing respiratory irritation. Because of the immense amount of popularity acai berries have gained in recent years, one can find a plethora of overpriced juices, smoothies, tablets, powder, and other beverages containing some form of acai berries within them as well as vague, exaggerated health claims, such as “boost energy” and “weight loss support” on the labels of these products. With all of the hype surrounding acai berries, the main questions needing to be addressed are does primary, independently funded research about the health claims of acai berries support or negate the health claims associated with acai berries, and do people really need to consume acai berries to be healthy?
I will address the main health claims of acai berries, including its heart protecting properties, anti aging properties, and weight loss assistance. According to the National Center for Complimentary Health and Integrative Health, “there is no definitive scientific evidence to support the anti aging and weight loss claims some acai berry products have marketed”. This means there is a lack of statistically significant evidence from the studies conducted on acai berries to conclude that acai berries somehow aid in weight loss or have anti aging properties. I could not even find a biochemical explanation for how acai berries provide guidance in promoting weight loss, so I am unaware about how this health claim became popular. As for the anti aging and heart protecting properties of acai berries, both of these claims arose because acai berries do have a variety of antioxidant compounds within them. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent the oxidation of other compounds, and oxidative stress has been linked to a plethora of conditions, including cardiovascular disease and aging. However, as I have previously mentioned, there is not enough evidence to support the health claim of acai berries having anti aging properties because of its antioxidant level. Acai berries may aid in heart protection according to an epidemiological study published in 2010. But, the study did not look at the cardio-protection of only acai berries, and the study did not mention that an increase of fruits and vegetables in general provides protection against several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. In conclusion, while acai berries are a healthy alternative snack, there is a lack of evidence to claim they are a superfood, and people do not need to consume acai berries to have good health. Also, before believing all of the health claims associated with certain foods, conduct your own research by reading primary research articles and trusted health sites, such as the CDC and WHO.
4. Basu, Arpita, Michael Rhone, and Timothy J. Lyons. “Berries: Emerging Impact on Cardiovascular Health.” Nutrition Reviews 68.3 (2010): 168-77. Http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068482/. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.