Acai (acai berry, seed, pulp)
Acai berries come from a palm tree in Central and South America. While a traditional food there for centuries, acai has recently become popular in Europe because of its supposed health benefits.
Acai berries contain a number of substances that could, but are not proven to, boost health. For one, acai berries seem to have very high levels of antioxidants - higher than blueberries, strawberries and many other fruits. 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.
Acai berries also contain healthy fatty acids. Some studies suggest these substances may reduce inflammation and could possibly slow the spread of cancer cells.
However, because the potential benefits of acai are based on preliminary laboratory studies, so far, we don’t know the extent of acai’s possible health benefits for people.
Acai has been sold as a dietary supplement in an attempt to relieve conditions like high cholesterol, heart problems, allergies and cancer, but these uses of acai are unproven. Claims about nutritional benefits of foods and supplements are regulated by the EU and no approved health claims have been issued for acai berries.
Acai dose and instructions for use
Because acai is an unproven treatment, there’s no good advice on how to use it.
Acai food sources
Acai fruit is a common food in some areas of Central and South America. In the UK, it is available in some health food shops and supermarkets. Acai is also an ingredient in some juices, spirits, jams, ice creams and other foods. It can also be used as a natural food colouring.
Acai supplement information
As a supplement, acai is sold in capsules, extracts and powders. Like any supplement, keep acai in a cool, dry place, away from humidity and direct sunlight, and away from children.
- Side effects. When eaten as a food, acai seems to be safe. Since they have not been well studied, the typical side effects of acai supplements are not known.
- Risks. It’s possible that acai may trigger or worsen swelling, high blood pressure, ulcers or intestinal bleeding. If you’re using acai, be sure to tell your doctor before having an MRI, since there’s a possibility it could interfere with the test.
- Interactions. If you take any medications regularly, talk to your GP before you start using acai supplements because they could interact with over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and other NSAID painkillers, as well as with prescription medications for pain. Don’t take acai without first speaking with your GP if you’re taking cancer drugs, since it could block their effectiveness. Don’t use acai along with other antioxidant supplements without your GP’s approval.
When acai berries are eaten as food, they appear to be safe. But given the lack of evidence about the safety of acai supplements, they are not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.