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Acai



Background

The acai palm tree, native to tropical Central and South America, produces a deep purple fruit. The word “acai,” which comes from a language of the native people of the region, means “fruit that cries.” The acai fruit has long been an important food source for indigenous peoples of the Amazon region.

Acai products have become popular in the United States, where they have been marketed for weight-loss and anti-aging purposes.

The Federal Trade Commission has taken action against companies that marketed acai weight loss products in allegedly deceptive ways.

Acai fruit pulp has been used experimentally as an oral contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Acai products are available as juices, powders, tablets, and capsules.

How Much Do We Know?

Very little research has been done in people on the health effects of acai products.

What Have We Learned?

There’s no definitive scientific evidence based on studies in people to support the use of acai for any health-related purpose.

No independent studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals that substantiate claims that acai alone promotes rapid weight loss. Researchers who investigated the safety profile of an acai-fortified juice in rats observed that there were no body weight changes in animals given the juice compared with animals that didn’t receive it.

A preliminary study suggested that eating acai fruit pulp might reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels in overweight people.

Laboratory studies have focused on acai’s potential antioxidant properties, and a juice blend with acai as the main ingredient has been shown to have an antioxidant effect in people. (Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells against certain types of damage.)

What Do We Know About Safety?

There is little reliable information about the safety of acai as a supplement. It is widely consumed as an edible fruit or as a juice.

Consuming acai might affect MRI test results. If you use acai products and are scheduled for an MRI, check with your health care provider.

Keep in Mind

Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Key References

Acai. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/ on March 26, 2015. [Database subscription].

Federal Trade Commission. FTC Permanently Stops Fake News Website Operator that Allegedly Deceived Consumers about Acai Berry Weight-Loss Products. Federal Trade Commission Web site. Accessed at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/02/beony.shtm on March 27, 2015.

Jensen GS, Wu X, Patterson KM, et al. In vitro and in vivo antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities of an antioxidant-rich fruit and berry juice blend. Results of a pilot and randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2008;56(18):8326-8333.

Marcason W. What is the acai berry and are there health benefits? Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009;109(11):1968.

Schauss AG, Clewell A, Balogh L, et al. Safety evaluation of an acai-fortified fruit and berry functional juice beverage MonaVie Active. Toxicology. 2010;278(1):46-54.
Schreckinger ME, Lotton J, Lila MA, et al. Berries from South America: a comprehensive review on chemistry, health potential, and commercialization. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2010;13(2):233-246.

Udani JK, Singh BB, Singh VJ, et al. Effects of acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: a pilot study. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:45.

-NIH



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