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Acai

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Common Names:  acai, açaí

Latin Name: 
Euterpe oleracea, Euterpe badiocarpa

This fact sheet provides basic information about acai (pronounced AH-sigh-EE)—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information.

Background

  • The acai palm tree, native to tropical Central and South America, produces a deep purple fruit. The word “acai,” which comes from a language of the native people of the region, means “fruit that cries.” The acai fruit has long been an important food source for indigenous peoples of the Amazon region.
  • Acai products have become popular in the United States, where they have been marketed for weight-loss and anti-aging purposes.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has taken action against companies that marketed acai weight loss products in allegedly deceptive ways.
  • Acai fruit pulp has been used experimentally as an oral contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Acai products are available as juices, powders, tablets, and capsules.

How Much Do We Know?

  • Very little research has been done in people on the health effects of acai products.

What Have We Learned?

  • There’s no definitive scientific evidence based on studies in people to support the use of acai for any health-related purpose.
  • No independent studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals that substantiate claims that acai alone promotes rapid weight loss. Researchers who investigated the safety profile of an acai-fortified juice in rats observed that there were no body weight changes in animals given the juice compared with animals that didn’t receive it.
  • A preliminary study suggested that eating acai fruit pulp might reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels in overweight people.
  • Laboratory studies have focused on acai’s potential antioxidant properties, and a juice blend with acai as the main ingredient has been shown to have an antioxidant effect in people. (Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells against certain types of damage.)

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • There is little reliable information about the safety of acai as a supplement. It is widely consumed as an edible fruit or as a juice.
  • Consuming acai might affect MRI test results. If you use acai products and are scheduled for an MRI, check with your health care provider.

Keep in Mind

  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 
1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 
1-866-464-3615
E-mail: 

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset.

E-mail: 

Key References

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

* Note: PDF files require a viewer such as the free Adobe Reader.

NCCIH Publication No.: 
D460
Updated: 
September 2016

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.


NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advise of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.


U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

nccih.nih.gov

This page last modified November 29, 2016