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Acai

Acai
© Steven Foster

Common Names: acai, acai berry, açaí

Latin Names: Euterpe oleracea, Euterpe badiocarpa

Background

  • The acai palm tree, native to tropical Central and South America, produces a deep purple fruit. 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 promoted 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) of the digestive tract.

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. When investigating the safety profile of an acai-fortified juice in rats, researchers found no differences in body weight changes between animals given the juice and animals not given the juice.
  • 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?

  • Acai pulp appears to be safe when consumed in the amounts commonly used in foods; however, drinking unprocessed acai juice has been linked to an illness called American trypanosomiasis (also known as Chagas disease).
  • Consuming acai might affect MRI test results. If you use acai products and are scheduled for an MRI, check with your health care provider.
  • Little is known about whether it’s safe to use acai during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Keep in Mind

  • Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

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PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Website: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset.

Website: https://ods.od.nih.gov/

Email: ods@nih.gov (link sends e-mail)

Key References

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NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: August 2020