You may find yourself staring glassy eyed at late-night infomercials peddling acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) products, or wondering if the magazine or Web ads you see are true: Are acai berries nature's wonder drug, capable of blasting away fat (not to mention sexual dysfunction and general aging)?
When it comes to understanding acai berries, picture a smoothie blended with unequal parts truth and fiction. Some – but not all – of the hype is true. Knowing what's what can save you disappointment – and a whole lot of strain on your wallet.
Read on to learn about acai berry facts and myths.
Claim #1: Acai berries are an appetite suppressant.
Here's why: "To date, there's no scientific evidence to support this claim," says Cara Rosenbloom, Toronto-based Registered Dietitian and nutrition expert with Canadian Living magazine.
Got a friend who swears by it? Consider this the placebo effect, where she believes it's suppressing her appetite, and perhaps she does in fact eat less. But, in theory, anything can have a placebo effect.
Bottom line, says Rosenbloom: "It's not an appetite suppressant – it's a berry!"
Claim #2: Acai berries can speed up your metabolism and flatten your stomach!
Here's why: Again, there's no proof for this claim, says Rosenbloom.
Check out 8 ways to blast belly fat for proven flab-busting tips.
Claim #3: Acai berries are rich in antioxidants.
Here's why: "Acai berries are rich in antioxidants – which help fight the free radicals that can damage cells and lead to heart disease and cancer," says Rosenbloom. "Many scientific studies have looked at the antioxidant content of acai, and have found them to be a 'good source of antioxidants,'" she adds.
The caveat: all berries are rich in antioxidants, including ones you can buy for a lot less than pricey acai imports!
Page 1 of 2 - more on antioxidants on page 2! Plus, find out what Oprah has to say about acai berries.
In fact, points out Rosenbloom, there are a number of less expensive juices on the market which are actually higher in anthocyanins, the antioxidant acai berries boast.
According to a recent University of California study, pomegranate, concord grape, blueberry and black cherry juice all had higher concentrations of antioxidants than acai berry juice – as did red wine!
So treat yourself to a small glass of Pom, or munch on a handful of berries. After all, whole fruit offers more fibre and can help you fill up between meals.
Claim #4: Oprah and Rachel Ray swear by acai berry products.
Here's why: One of Oprah's guests once said acai berries are healthy. Period. Unsavoury acai berry marketers and Internet scammers inflated this innocuous claim into an endorsement of their products. Rachel Ray is another fan favourite whom scam artists use to "endorse" their products.
Press releases issued by Winfrey and Ray on their websites clarify that neither endorse or support claims by any acai berry product manufacturers.
Claim #5: There's no harm in just giving acai a try.
Verdict: It depends
Here's why: No, there isn't any proof that acai is bad for your health. But it could hurt your pocketbook.
Both the Better Business Bureau and the Center For Science in the Public Interest (a non-profit health advocacy group) have identified a number of acai berry scams that should have you running for the hills (in a pair of well-cushioned cross-trainers).
"Free trial offers" that sound too good to be true usually are, as thousands of bilked consumers have discovered.
Acai berries won't help you lose weight – unless you chase that acai smoothie with daily fitness and moderate caloric restriction.
For more food for thought, read How to spot diet scams.
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