George Mason Law School

Acai: Not quite a miracle fruit, but close

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September 8, 2009

9:44 PM

If you followed “The Hills” last year, you might have heard of Lauren Conrad’s “miracle acai diet.” Unfortunately, this celebrity association is discrediting the truly beautiful effects of this exotic plant. They might as well call it the wonder drug.

Acai comes from the tropical forests of Central and South America. The dark purple berries are plucked from 20-meter-tall slender trees that overrun the swamps from Belize to Brazil. Although they are best consumed raw, straight from the tree, the growing demand for the Acai berry has led to the production of puddings, frozen yogurt, juices and even ice cream.

Why is there such high demand for this tiny, insignificant berry located in the middle of the Amazon? Acai berries are the highest antioxidant fruit known to mankind. Yes, higher than pomegranates and blueberries. Even at low doses, they lower the peroxyl radical (a harmful free-radical) and their antioxidants enter human cells to saturate the cells with oxygen.

This fruit is also high in protein — a serving having more than the protein content of an egg. But while eggs contribute cholesterol to your diet, acai berries actually lower your cholesterol counts. Remember all that hype about omega-3s — and their benefits to the brain, elasticity of the skin, and cholesterol? Well acai has omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. No wonder acai oil is used in beauty products.

Besides being an excellent source of fiber, a good source of iron, and containing all vital vitamins for the body, this teeny purple berry increases energy and promotes sound sleep.

Considering how much power is packed into one berry, it’s no wonder that there are numerous long term benefits associated with acai consumption. Increased intake of acai berry has been linked with reduced risks of diabetes, chronic inflammation, heat and vascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegeneration disorders. The high antioxidant count is linked to prevention of cancers, urinary tract infections, bacterial infections, age-related visual deterioration, and premature aging.

Now don’t run to the Sexchange and chug 20 bottles of acai juice with the notion that it will prevent you from getting cancer in the future. But scientists do agree that acai may lower your chances of developing dangerous diseases — and presently there are many ongoing studies linking acai with decreases in harmful cell development.

Take those at the University of Florida for example. Their tests, with a potent antioxidant mixture of acai against cancers, concluded in a dramatic drop of leukemia cells by an astounding 86 percent. These are promising results, and keep scientists hopeful of the future benefits Acai can bring. So whenever you think about a late night snack at Wawa, or have the case of the munchies during the day, try to consider acai as a substitute to a soda or bag of Doritos. Because besides the benefits, this berry is delicious.

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