Ever since Dr. Nicholas Perricone declared the Acai berry as the world’s top “superfood” during Oprah Winfrey’s show, it had gained widespread popularity across the globe for the past decade due to its high antioxidant source, weight loss and anti-aging effects. But just how effective is the Acai berry and what are its benefits? How did it cause a lot of people to go into a frenzy in incorporating the Acai berry in their diets?
Acai Berry: The Superfood
The fruit of the Acai palm (Euterpe oleracea), the Acai berry, is a dark purple berry roughly the size of a blueberry and comes from Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Demand for the Acai fruit has skyrocketed and its popularity expanded globally when acai supplement companies marketed it as the elite “superfood” with claims that the fruit’s antioxidant qualities offer a wide variety of health benefits.
The acai berry is an essential food source for the traditional population in the Amazon region, who also use the fruit as a form of medication for a variety of health-related reasons, including the treatment of diarrhea. As with many other indigenous plants and fruits, the tribesmen used them for medicine. However, in the years that the Acai berry gained popularity as a dietary supplement, commercial marketers have developed the Acai berry in forms of juices, capsules, freeze-dried powder and tablets. It can be taken in its natural form, ingested as an ingredient in beverages or food and taken orally as a capsule, powder or tablet. It is currently being commercially sold as an ingredient in liquor, ice cream, cosmetics, jelly, beverages, and other such foods.
Acai Berry and its Health Benefits
The Acai berry’s popularity is mainly due to its very high antioxidant capacity. An antioxidant is an anti-rusting agent which protects our bodies from oxidizing. It is essential for everyone to have their daily dose of antioxidants as part of the regular diet. Acai berry has a reported ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value of 50,000 units for every 100 gram. That’s a higher antioxidant content compared to strawberry, cranberry, raspberry or even blueberry, which contains only about 2,400 units for every 100 gram.
Diets rich in antioxidants, as with other berries, the Acai berry proves to be a high source of vitamin C, flavonoids, polyphenols and anthocyanins are also known antioxidants. Powerful substances like flavonoids and anthocyanins play a vital role in in the protection system of our bodies’ cells by neutralizing harmful free radicals in our bodies. That is why antioxidants are said to improve anti-aging effects and promotes weight loss.
Aside from its antioxidant benefits, the Acai berry, also makes for an excellent source of healthy fatty acids such as oleic acid, fiber and omega fats that aid in vitamin absorption for a properly functioning digestive tract, as well as plant protein and almost 20 different amino acids. This may help protect against heart disease by lowering high cholesterol. No wonder the tradition populations in South and Central America use the entire Acai plant, from the fruit, heart and roots of the palm are being used for varying medicinal purposes including anemia, jaundice, diarrhea, ulcers, hemorrhages, liver diseases, parasites, diabetes, hair loss, hepatitis, menstrual pain, kidney problems, malaria, fever and muscle pain.
With the health benefits of the Acai berry mentioned above, additional claims from Acai supplement manufacturers also purport that the product may be used as a supplement for rapid weight loss, even though there are no scientifically controlled studies done up to the present to prove this. Other unsupported claims include using the Acai berry for detoxification, for osteoarthritis relief and the treatment of erectile dysfunction. However, a certain study conducted by the University of Florida found there is a 35-86% reduction in human leukemia cells when it is exposed to Acai in a laboratory setting. Although the study was not fully supported, some researchers believed that Acai has cancer-destroying potential.
Acai Berry “No” Side Effects
Information on the Acai berry and its health benefits have bombarded the internet but rarely do we find published articles about its side effects. Taking and/or drinking the Acai berry produces no side effects mainly because it is an all-natural food source. According to those who have been taking Acai berry as supplements, they have not had any adverse reaction to the product and the general observation that has been reported was that they felt “an energy boost and a general healthy feeling”. Also, some people may have an allergic reaction to Acai berry but the same could be true for other food or dietary supplements. As with many other herbal supplements, the Acai berry is also not regulated by the FDA so it important to always take things in moderation.
Even though the Acai berry contains a wealth of nutritious substances that may have huge health benefits, to this day, there have only been few scientific studies focusing on the Acai berry’s long term effects that can support its claims as the world’s top superfood and without much research to back it up. We should all be mindful of our intake of this particular supplement and always seek our doctor’s advice especially if we are on medication for chronic medical conditions. Plus, it’s equally important to keep a wary eye on the hundreds of scams that are out there done by companies to promote Acai berry that triggers rapid weight loss, treats and prevents cancer and other such medical conditions.