Obesity Fad Diets Acai

The acai diet is not a single diet. Instead, multiple diet plans and supplements claim that the “weight loss berry” will help people shed pounds. Although little evidence supports acai as a weight loss aid, acai diets are very popular, and this popularity has spawned acai berry scams as well as many diet products.

What Is Acai?

The acai berry grows on palm trees in the Amazon. The acai is a dark purple berry said to be rich in antioxidants — substances that protect cells from damage. Antioxidants may play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease.

The Acai Diet and Acai Cleanse

Acai diet products include:

  • Acai pills
  • Capsules
  • Juices
  • Powders
  • Purees.

Promoters of the weight loss berry claim that acai’s combination of amino acids, fatty acids and phytosterols (naturally occurring plant compounds) increases metabolism, reduces appetite and improves digestion.

Acai diet supplements are often sold in combination with acai cleansing products, which supposedly detoxify the body to promote weight loss. An “acai cleanse” product may or may not contain acai berries.

Scientific Evidence for the “Weight Loss Berry”

Online marketing for the acai diet suggests the berries make weight loss easy while staving off heart attacks, cancer and other illnesses. Some of the wilder marketing claims suggest that acai berries even cure cancer.

Unfortunately, very few of claims made about acai berries can be substantiated. While it’s true that acai contains large amounts of antioxidants, so do many less expensive fruits.

Acai Berry Scams

Acai berries became well known when they were mentioned on the Oprah Winfrey show by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Nicholas Perricone. Nobody associated with the show suggested acai was a weight loss berry: The emphasis was on the level of antioxidants in the berries.

However, online marketers seized the opportunity to market a diet product connected — however tenuously — to Winfrey’s name. Some acai diet marketers go so far as to claim that Winfrey or Oz endorse their product, a claim that is false.

In 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest warned consumers that acai berry scams were commonplace on the Internet. “Free trials” of acai diet products lure people into providing personal information and credit card numbers. People are then charged high prices, due to stipulations hidden in the acai marketers’ terms of agreement.

Forums and blogs prompting acai diets are often thinly disguised marketing tools driving traffic to websites selling acai products. Forums may also tout the importance of an acai cleanse in combination with acai products, again with convenient links to the marketer’s website.

While acai berry use is unlikely to cause health problems, the berry’s weight loss properties are grossly exaggerated. Given the many acai berry scams online, anyone considering trying an acai diet might want to purchase acai pills at a local health food center rather than online.

Resources

Center for Science in the Public Interest. (2009). Consumers warned of web-based acai scams. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from http://www.cspinet.org/new/200903231.html.

Every Diet. (2010). Acai berry diet. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www.everydiet.org/diet/acai-berry-diet.

James, S. (2008). ‘Superfood’ acai may not be worth the price. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Diet/story?id=6434350