In the past several years, acai berries have become the most recognizable diet food on the market. Pronounced “ah-sigh-ee,” these South American berries have been praised by health and weight loss specialists on television, the Internet, and practically all other types of media. Some ads promise as much as 450 percent higher weight loss compared to dieting and weight loss alone. But are these claims credible? Does consuming acai berries actually drop the weight? Let’s identify the fiction from the fact.

There are several companies out there claiming that their acai products act as appetite suppressants. Just one pill or serving will keep hunger away for the rest of the day. The truth is that acai berries do not suppress hunger. In fact, they’re just as filling as any other type of berry. Similarly, acai berries are said to speed up your body’s metabolism and flatten your tummy. Again, this is a false claim. Yet many people swear that these berries are responsible for curbing their cravings and slimming them down. This is due to the placebo effect, a phenomenon in which people who use a product that claims to have certain results will see these results, even though the product has no active ingredients. Most of this effect is created in the brain; if people believe that a pill or food will provide a specific outcome, they trick themselves into feeling differently. This effect is often seen in medical and psychological research, using placebo (sugar) pills instead of pharmacological drugs.

Acai berries have also been advertised as being high in antioxidants. Now this claim is true! Acai berries, like other berries, are known to be rich in antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that can damage cells and lead to heart disease and cancer. So the consumption of foods high in antioxidants, such as berries, is a healthy choice. However, the acai berry is not the only food that can provide protection against free radicals. Other berries, like blueberries and cranberries, as well as broccoli, garlic, tomatoes and green tea will do the trick too.

Now that we’ve uncovered the facts about acai berries, you may be wondering “what’s the harm in trying them out?” Whether you’re looking for the benefits of the antioxidants or are curious about the weight loss claims, it’s recommended that you pass on acai berries simply because of their cost. Most supplements and powders are priced upwards of $40, and the amount that you receive will only last for a month at most. You can receive the same benefits of antioxidants by picking up locally grown berries or other foods at the grocery store for a tiny fraction of the cost of acai berries. As for weight loss, no one food can guarantee that the pounds will drop. Losing weight requires that you reduce your caloric intake, eat healthy foods and exercise regularly in order to see results. Acai berries are not so special after all, and they certainly are not the “miracle berry” they are advertised to be.

image: Breno Peck (Creative Commons – BY-NC-SA)