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Acai: Weight Loss Wonder Fruit?

Can acai berries really help you lose weight? WebMD asked the experts.
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berries have been making headlines as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They're supposed to be good for weight loss, anti-aging, and more. But can acai really help you lose weight, as the online ads promise? WebMD asked diet and nutrition experts for the truth about acai and weight loss.

Researchers have found the acai berry has antioxidants that may protect cells from damage caused by harmful molecules in the body called "free radicals," and may possibly help against diseases such as heart disease and cancer. But when it comes to weight loss, the hype is ahead of the science, because the research evidence for such a connection is lacking. Even Oprah Winfrey has posted comments on her web site disassociating herself with acai products that claim to promote weight loss.

"Acai is a nutrient-rich source of antioxidants, much like many other fruits, but there is nothing magical about the fruit to cause weight loss," says David Grotto, RD, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.

"There is not any single food, including the super-healthy acai berry, that can provide the solution to weight loss. To lose weight, you need to control calories with a healthy lifestyle approach that includes plenty of physical activity, nutritious foods, and adequate rest."

No single "acai berry diet" exists. Instead, you'll find advertisements for products such as "acai berry detox," "acai burn," "acai pure" and "acai berry edge," promising quick weight loss. Some of the ads promise "450% more weight loss than dieting and exercise alone" and claim you can lose up to 20 pounds in one week.

According to some web sites selling acai products, acai's fiber and essential fatty acid content contribute to its ability to "burn fat more efficiently, process food more quickly, cut down on cravings, and boost metabolism." Detox acai products further promise to "cleanse" your system of fat and rid your body of "toxic buildup that is weighing you down."

How can they make these claims? Unlike drugs, over-the-counter supplements and foods are not closely regulated, so some manufacturers can over-sell health benefits of their products.

Grotto does note that there is something unique about acai: It's one of the few fruits, besides avocados, that contain monounsaturated fats (MUFAS).

While MUFAS may work to help keep you feeling satisfied if you include them in a calorie-controlled diet, the amount in acai is so small that you would need to consume large quantities to get enough MUFAs, he says. And not only would that be expensive, he says, it would add lots of extra calories. (MUFAS are also found in olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, soybean, flax, and olive and sunflower oils.)

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