The Claim: Acai Berries Help You Lose Weight
Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is a berry from Brazil that's been widely touted in the U.S. for its health-enhancing powers. In addition to removing toxins and increasing energy, these alleged benefits include burning fat, reducing food cravings, and boosting metabolism. Typically the berry is sold in the form of juice (for as much as $40 a bottle), capsules, or powder.
What supposedly makes acai berries so beneficial is their high levels of antioxidants, which help fight harmful free radicals. While some studies show that the berries are rich in antioxidants, other research has found that acai juice ranks in the middle of the antioxidant scale, below Concord grapes and blueberries.
Whatever the case, antioxidant activity doesn't tell us whether the berries have benefits. That requires human studies showing that they actually lead to weight loss or other purported effects, and so far such research is lacking.
This hasn't stopped claims on the Internet that acai berries can help you lose 20 pounds in 20 days or that they result in "450 percent more weight loss than dieting and exercising alone." Some sites falsely claim that Oprah Winfrey endorses the products, which has prompted her to file a lawsuit against a number of marketers.
As long as you don't count on it to melt away pounds or perform other health miracles, acai juice is a perfectly fine beverage. Just watch out for brands with added sugar and calories. Also, beware of sites that offer "risk-free" trials for acai products. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports that many consumers who signed up for such deals have been hit with monthly charges of $80 or more on their credit cards, which continued after they tried to cancel.
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Reprinted from Coffee Is Good for You by Robert J. Davis, PhD, by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2012 by Robert J. Davis, PhD, MPH