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Acai berries and acai berry juice - What are the health benefits?

The acai berry and acai berry juice is the subject of some big health claims if you search for it online, with claims of anti- ageing and weight loss properties, for example.

No claims like these have been verified by the European food regulator EFSA, so you won’t see claims like these on packs sold in shops.

What is the acai berry?

The acai berry is a 2.5cm-long reddish, purple fruit. It comes from the acai palm tree (Euterpe oleracea), which is native to Central and South America. It is a relative of the blueberry, cranberry and other dark purple fruits.

Is the acai berry healthy?

Acai contains several substances called anthocyanins and flavonoids.

The word anthocyanin comes from two Greek words meaning “plant” and “blue”. Anthocyanins are responsible for the red, purple and blue hues in many fruits, vegetables and flowers. Foods that are richest in anthocyanins -- such as blueberries, red grapes, red wine and acai -- are very strongly coloured, ranging from deep purple to black.

Research on the acai berry has focused on its possible antioxidant activity. In laboratory studies, antioxidants appear to protect cells from damage that can lead to diseases like cancer. However, it’s not clear yet if antioxidants have a health benefit in people.

Are there known health benefits of acai berries?

Some studies show that acai fruit pulp has a very high antioxidant capacity with even more antioxidant content than the pulp of the cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry or blueberry. Studies are ongoing, though, and there is much still to be learned.

People eat acai berries to address various health conditions. But so far, acai berries have no known health benefit that is any different than that of other similar fruits.

Can acai berries boost weight loss?

Scientists are learning more about the functional power of foods, such as the acai berry. Although acai is touted in some weight loss products, this effect is unproven and few scientific studies have tested the benefit of acai in promoting weight loss.

For now, plenty of research supports eating a diet rich in antioxidants. There is no doubt that berries and other fruits are a key part of any healthy diet promoting weight loss, but the jury is still out on whether there is something special about acai’s ability to shed excess kilos.

Why are acai berries used in beauty products?

Some cosmetics and beauty products contain acai oil in the ingredients list. That is because acai oil is so rich in antioxidants.

Acai oil may possibly be a safe alternative to other tropical oils used in beauty products such as facial and body creams, anti- ageing skin therapies, shampoos and conditioners and other products, but more research is needed. When acai oil is processed and stored long-term, the antioxidant levels remain high.

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