Acai berry supplements are dietary supplements that incorporate the fruit of a particular species of South American palm tree. The acai berry is thought to contain a high concentration of substances that may play a role in reducing the risk of diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, in addition to suppressing appetite and promoting weight loss. Acai berry supplements are available in a variety of forms, but there is little conclusive evidence to link any of these supplements to concrete evidence of disease prevention or successful weight reduction.
The acai berry is the dark-purplish fruit of the acai palm tree, a tree native to the Brazilian portions of the Amazonian rain forest. For decades, the acai berry has been a major part of South American folk medicine. The berry itself is used to treat digestive disorders, such as diarrhea, and portions of the acai palm roots are common in native treatments for diseases, such as jaundice, hepatitis, malaria and kidney and liver ailments. In many parts of Brazil, the acai berry is popular as a juice or served with ice cream or grains.
Supplements that feature either the juice or powdered extract of the acai berry claim that the berry contains exceptionally large amounts of anthocyanins and flavonoids, two antioxidants. As antioxidants, both work to rid the body of free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage healthy tissue by disrupting proper DNA function. Antioxidants prevent these free radicals from causing damage and therefore may contribute directly to a reduction in the risk of certain diseases.
The Mayo Clinic lists berries, such as blueberries, blackberries and cranberries, as some of the best antioxidant-rich foods to include in your diet; acai berries belong to the same family as these berries. However, according to the Quackwatch website, while acai berries are a better source of antioxidants than cranberries, oranges and apples, they are do not contain more antioxidants than other berries.
Weight Loss Aspects
Many acai berry supplements often claim to offer better weight loss than other weight loss pills. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to link any particular form of the acai berry supplement, or the nutritional aspects of the acai berry, specifically to appetite suppression or weight loss.
Types of Supplements
A wide variety of acai berry supplements is available. The two most common are acai berry capsules and acai berry juice. Acai berry capsules usually contain the dried, powdered extract of the acai berry. Since acai berries are highly perishable–they lose most of their nutritional benefit within a day of being picked–many acai berry supplement companies advertise that their product is made from berries dried less than 18 hours after picking. Freeze-dried acai berry supplements are generally considered to be higher quality than supplements using spray-dried berries since the freeze-dried berries contain no extra chemicals.
In January 2009, the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) reported that thousands of consumers were complaining to them of being scammed by acai berry supplement advertisements that falsely claimed to be endorsed by celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray. The consumers were promised a free trial of the acai berry supplement, but when many tried to cancel their subscription, they found they could not contact anyone on the phone or received no response to multiple emails–and they continued to be billed monthly for the supplements. The BBB recommended that anyone interested in acai berry supplements thoroughly research the seller before making any purchasing commitments.