Health & Medical Health & Medical

Acai Scams - Yes Or No?

Acai Scam or Acai Science? Acai scams is such a nasty name that this topic deserves a serious scientific review to get at some verifiable truths.
Most of the information on the Internet is simply repeated, out of ignorance, from a few original sources.
Those original sources are the scams.
Just for fun I am going to show you how a scientist (me) evaluates the marketing hype behind the big Acai scam.
What I did was to go to one of my favorite medical databases (CAM on PubMed) and simply look up all of the references to the actual published research on the scientific name of acai, Euterpeoleracea.
This is the name that scientists use for the species of palm tree that produces acai berries (which are not really berries, by the way).
I am going to give you the Cliff Notes version of the results first, then I will append the complete list of each of the nine research articles that have been published in scientific journals.
Scientific Research on Acai A total of 9 publications came up in my search.
The earliest was published in 2004 and the most recent one in 2008.
The main results are listed below:
  • 2004 Anthocyanins and similar phytochemicals were isolated and evaluated for antioxidant activity and pigment stability.
  • 2005 Several commercial and non-commercial samples of acai fruit pulp were found to have antioxidant activity; very little of this activity was due to the anthocyanins
  • 2006 Anthocyanins from fruits were found to be potent inhibitors of nitric oxide
  • 2006 Seed extracts show potent antioxidant activity, mostly from as yet unknown ingredients
  • 2007 Extracts of acai pits show vasodilator effect on rat tissue
  • 2007 Acai fruits have good nutritional value
  • 2008 Acai fruit pulp and oil inhibit growth of colon cancer cells in culture; effect is not due to anthocyanins
  • 2008 Class of phytochemicals called lignans discovered; showed protective effect on breast cancer cell cultures that were stressed by hydrogen peroxide
  • 2008 Showed acai pulp to be equivalent to applesauce in increasing plasma antioxidant capacity
Do Research Articles Support Acai Scams? In a word, no.
The research has nothing to do with the marketing of any acai scam.
Note that the vast majority of ads regarding acai offer weight loss claims.
You can find all this for yourself with a simple Google search.
If you do, then compare what you find with the list of research results that I summarized in the above list.
Not one single article has anything to do with weight loss.
You may also run into a handful of articles that advise you to drink acai juice to prevent cancer.
One article showed a preliminary result using colon cancer cells in culture.
After doing many years of research on cancer cell cultures myself (in my case, brain cancer cells), I can tell you that research on cell cultures rarely has anything to do with cells in a whole person.
The reference above from 2008 regarding colon cancer is very, very, very preliminary.
Did I say VERY preliminary? No health advice whatsoever can be taken from this lone article.
Acai Scams Are Not Going Away Many supplement manufacturers have jumped onto this bandwagon.
Customers in my retail nutrition store in Tempe, AZ, come in regularly to ask about acai for weight loss and other health benefits.
My recommendation is that acai berries contain some antioxidants that are probably beneficial.
It is the new berry on the block.
Another one will come along soon.
Fruits juices litter the supplement landscape.
They are all good to some extent.
However, the information about acai has reached a level of silliness that I regard as a scam.
The big Acai Scam.
What About the Folk History of Acai? It is not possible to rely on scientific research to guide us for most health claims, simply because such research doesn't keep up with marketing.
Scientific research is too slow to find out most the answers we want.
This is where folk knowledge can be helpful, especially when herbs have a folk medical history.
Unfortunately, the acai berry is more well known as a poor man's fruit juice than as a medicinal herb.
People in Brazil, where acai palms are cultivated, are probably laughing in their beer about all the hullabaloo in the U.
regarding acai.
You can read about this plant from the point of view of a naturopathic doctor, Dr.
Leslie Nelson, at RainTree Nutrition to see what I mean.
Search at RainTree Nutrition for this ethnobotanical review of acai by Dr.
Details on References I welcome you to scan the references that I dug up.
The titles below provide a lot of detailed information that only scientists like me get excited about.
Enjoy! Don't scientist have a way with words? You can get even more information by looking up the PubMed ID numbers for the complete abstracts of these articles, which I have included.
If you look them up, you will also find full journal citations, author names, and the address of the lead institution where the research was conducted.
  1. Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.
    ) in human healthy volunteers.
    PubMed ID: 18693743
  2. Lignans and other constituents of the fruits of Euterpe oleracea (Acai) with antioxidant and cytoprotective activities.
    PubMed ID: 18656934
  3. Absorption and biological activity of phytochemical-rich extracts from acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.
    ) pulp and oil in vitro.
    PubMed ID: 18442253
  4. Characterization of the acai or manaca (Euterpe oleracea Mart.
    ): a fruit of the Amazon.
    [Article in Spanish] PubMed ID: 17824205
  5. Endothelium-dependent vasodilator effect of Euterpe oleracea Mart.
    (Acai) extracts in mesenteric vascular bed of the rat.
    PubMed ID: 17049314
  6. Total oxidant scavenging capacity of Euterpe oleracea Mart.
    (acai) seeds and identification of their polyphenolic compounds.
    PubMed ID: 16756342
  7. Inhibitory effects of Euterpe oleracea Mart.
    on nitric oxide production and iNOSexpression.
    PubMed ID: 16635558
  8. Total oxidant scavenging capacities of Euterpe oleracea Mart.
    (Acai) fruits.
    PubMed ID: 16019315
  9. Phytochemical composition and pigment stability of Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.
    PubMed ID: 15030208
If youfind yourself wondering about an acai berry scam, just take a look at the list above and see whether anything that you read elsewhere has been addressed by scientific research.
More than likely, the answeris, no.
The one thing that a scientific review such as this one does not do is evaluate testimonial evidence.
Testimonials are not scientific.
However, the medical community does recognize them as case studies when they are documented with the right kind of details.
Testimonials often entail the power of the human mind, which is not to be discounted by the absence of science.
We really don't have objective statistical protocols for evaluating this kind of evidence.

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