Update 9/19/19. Have you heard about the Acai berry diet? Several people have asked me if it worked. The diet is touted to not only help people lose weight but improve health too. So is acai berry the real deal or is it a scam? Is it really a superfood? Does it have any side effects?
What is Acai Berry?
Acai Berry is a fruit that was probably first popularized by Dr. Perricone and later by Oprah and Dr. Oz, because of its antioxidant potential. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which are implicated in causing many diseases. Because of this, acai was marketed as being “anti-aging”. The thought being that if acai could neutralize disease-causing free radicals, then it might slow the aging process. Because being overweight can also speed up the aging process, I guess it was an inevitable conclusion that acai would be marketed as a diet aid. Read my acai berry review for more info on acai berry and all of its other claims – and whether it does them or not.
Acai Berry Diet Claims
According to those who advocate acai as a weight loss aid, the diet is supposed to help by:
1. Increasing your energy
2. Helping you burn more calories
3. Being a natural appetite suppressant
4. Reducing fluid retention
5. Keeping your bowels clean
6. Battling free radicals and Reducing toxins
It all sounds great – but is there any proof?
Acai Berry Energy / Calorie Burning Research
Let’s now see if there is any published peer-reviewed clinical evidence in people that proves acai berry does any of this:
1. Does acai increase energy levels in people? No evidence can be located.
2. Does acai help you burn more calories? Some claim the berry is thermogenic. In other words that it raises metabolism, helping you burn more calories when you’re not doing anything and when you’re working out. Again, this sounds great except proof can't be located.
Anytime you eat, your metabolism goes up a little. But, I can’t find anything in acai berries that might boost metabolism more than eating other fruits or vegetables. If you wanted to eat something that would raise metabolism, eat protein. Protein raises metabolic rate more than fruits or vegetables.
The increase in metabolic rate caused by eating only accounts for about 5- 10% of your daily energy use. This means its effects on weight loss are probably minimal.
3. Is acai berry a natural appetite suppressant? Like all berries, acai has fiber. This may help fill us up and supress hunger. The same is true for other fruits as well.
4. Does acai berry reduce fluid retention? In other words, is the berry a diuretic? No human proof could be located.
5. Does acai berry detoxifying the bowels? Because acai is a fruit, it has some good fiber. But does that mean it will work better at cleaning a colon than eating an orange, apple or other fruits?
6. Is acai berry an antioxidant? Acai has ingredients that act as antioxidants. So, it may help reduce free radical damage. That's good. Some research does in the show this but that proof is mostly conducted in test tubes. No research shows that acai helps cancer.
Some websites may promote acai berry because of its ORAC value. ORAC stands for Oxygen radical absorbance capacity. It's a measure of how good an antioxidant is at mopping up free radicals. While ORAC is a measure of foods antioxidant potential, the values are based on what happens in test tubes – not living humans. Just because acai berries and acai juice have some antioxidants does not mean that they better than eating blueberries or other fruits.
Some acai berry weight products may combine acai with supplements that are supposed to block fat or those that contain caffeine. If acai is so good at weight loss, how come it has to be combined with this other stuff?
Along with taking acai berry weight loss supplements, people are also often told to exercise too. I'm all for exercise but, if acai worked for weight loss, why would you also have to exercise?
Acai Berry and Weight Loss
I could not locate any peer-reviewed study in humans or animals that specifically looked at whether acai berries help weight loss. Likewise there doesn't appear to be any clinical proof the fruit burns belly fat either – or fat from anywhere else in the body.
Acai Berry Side Effects
The fruit is expected to be safe in healthy people. the food contains fiber and many plant nutrients which are likely healthy. Obviously supplements may not be the same thing as eating the food in its natural state. For supplements, here are some things to consider
- star with less than recommended for the first week
- stop taking at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- speak to your doctor/pharmacist if you take any medicine
- speak to your doctor if pregnant/breastfeeding
- consider if the supplement contains other ingredients in addition to acai
One report linked an acai berry supplement to rhabdomyolysis. In this report a 22-year-old man who took an acai berry weight loss supplement which resulted in muscle cell death (rhabdomyolysis). Rhabdomyolysis is a serious disorder that results in kidney failure and even heart attack. The supplement was supposed to contain acai berry and other ingredients. Ironically when doctors tested the supplement, no acai berry was found in the supplement. This does not mean the berry caused rhabdo. Rather, it's just more evidence to investigate who you do business with.
Does The Acai Diet Work?
If you only ate acai berries or drank acai juice and ate fewer calories, I'm sure you would lose some weight. That’s because acai berries don’t have many calories. The logic is the same as:
- If you only ate blueberries, you would also lose weight.
- If you only ate grapefruit, you would lose weight.
- If you only drank 2-3 Slim-Fast shakes and ate one sensible meal, you would lose weight.
- If you only ate two bowls of Special K Cereal and ate a sensible meal, you would also lose weight.
If you have used the acai diet and lost weight I'm glad for you. There are many roads to weight loss and each person has to find the road that works for them. Keep in mind that all of those roads are paved with eating fewer calories. If you remember that you should be ok.