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Acaí berries come from a palm tree in South America. While a traditional food there for centuries as well as a treatment for diarrhea, acaí has recently become popular in the U.S. because of its supposed health benefits.

Why do people take acaí?

Acaí berries contain a number of substances that could boost health. For one, acaí berries seem to have very high levels of antioxidants -- comparable to cranberries, but higher than blueberries, strawberries, and other fruits. In lab studies, antioxidants appear to protect cells from damage that can lead to diseases like cancer, in addition to possibly directly inhibiting the growth of some types of cancer. Substances in acaí berries may reduce inflammation and could possibly slow the spread of cancer cells. Also, some lab studies of acaí extracts led to positive effects on blood vessels that could be useful for many different medical conditions.

Acaí berries also contain healthy fatty acids, such as oleic acid, one of the same oils found in olive oil.

However, the potential benefits of acaí are based on preliminary lab studies. So far, we don’t know the extent of acaí’s possible health benefits in people.

Acaí has been sold as a dietary supplement for conditions like high cholesterol, heart problems, allergies, and cancer. These uses of acaí are unproven.

How much acaí should you take?

While acaí is an unproven treatment, it has a long history of use in traditional medicine, which offers an appropriate guide to some of its uses.

Can you get acaí naturally from foods?

Acaí fruit is a common food in some areas of South America. In the U.S., it’s available in some health food stores and supermarkets. Acaí is also an ingredient in some juices, drinks, liquors, jellies, ice creams, and other foods. It’s also used as a natural food coloring.

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