Does the Acai Berry Diet Work?

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Numerous wondrous properties have been assessed to the mysterious, exotic acai berry, one of the more compelling being that it functions as a diet aid. Named by the Better Business Bureau as one of the “Top 10 Scams and Rip Offs of 2009,” an acai berry diet — whether you drink the juice or take the supplements — won’t result in weight loss.


About Acai Berries

The acai berry is harvested in the rain forests of Central and South America and is touted as a “super fruit” to consumers. Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky describes the acai berry as a “grape-like fruit” that can be eaten raw, in beverages and other foods, such as ice cream, or consumed in supplement form. Similar exotic “super fruits” that pique consumers’ interest include the mangosteen, noni and goji berry.

Marketing Hype

Acai berry proponents make outrageous and unproven claims about the products. Online supplement marketers primarily tout the acai berry as a weight loss aid; however, other health benefits have been falsely attributed to the acai. Some marketers advertise acai berry products for purposes of “detoxification and cleansing,” while others assert they prevent or treat arthritis, high cholesterol, cancer and erectile dysfunction. More acai berry diet supplement sellers may tell you that there are double-blind, placebo-controlled studies providing the product’s benefits, or that celebrities such as Rachel Ray and Oprah Winfrey recommend acai berry diet supplements for weight loss. Such marketing claims are false, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the governmental authority charged with making sure that advertising claims are not false or misleading.

Known Benefits

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer watchdog organization, acai berry was first heralded as a food high in antioxidants. However, compared to the antioxidants in other juices, such as grape, blueberry and black cherry, acai berry falls short. The CSPI further indicates that whether antioxidants themselves have health benefits is a “matter of some debate.” There’s no evidence to suggest that the acai berry or other foods high in antioxidants have an effect on weight loss.

FTC Action

Testing acai berry juice or other acai berry foods bought from your market probably won’t hurt you, if you’re curious about the taste. However, problematic for the Better Business Bureau and FTC are online acai berry supplement marketers. A typical tactic used by acai berry supplement marketers who peddle their product online is to offer a “risk-free trial” in which you only pay for shipping charges with your debit or credit card only to be charged the card for the entire amount. According to the FTC, numerous consumers were charged $39.95 to $59.95 each month for products they didn’t agree to order. Acai berry diet scams cost consumers more than $30 million in 2009 alone. In August 2010, a U.S. district court ordered acai berry supplement marketers to halt Internet sales. The FTC seeks a permanent prohibition on the sale of acai berry diet products.

Avoiding Fakes and Fads

It’s easy to put your trust in fad diets and “miracle” foods like the acai berry, says the American Dietetic Association (ADA). However, theses products, often endorsed with personal testimonials or bogus medical experts, will likely lighten your pocketbook rather than your body. Avoid diets and products that promote rapid weight loss. According to the ADA, a more realistic goal to achieve is losing 1/2 to 1 lb. each week. Stay away from special “fat-burning foods.” There is no such thing. Other signs of a sham include diets that rely on specific food combinations or that stringently limit your choices or any diet or supplement proponent who tells you there’s no need to exercise.

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