Common Names: acai, acai berry, açaí
Latin Names: Euterpe oleracea, Euterpe badiocarpa
- 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.
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- Acai. Natural Medicines website. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com on October 30, 2019. [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 website. Accessed at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/02/beony.shtm on November 26, 2019.
- Marcason W. What is the açaí 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 açai-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 açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: a pilot study. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:45.
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