Health Team

Does 'miracle berry' help weight loss?

Internet ads would have you believe that a single South American berry can help you lose weight, fight cancer and improve your heart health.

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Calorie-burning, heart-healthy, cancer-fighting – all those attributes are in a purple berry called acai, grown in South and Central America and sold in pricey pills, juice and smoothies.

Or so some ads would have you believe.

"They're calling it the miracle food, the miracle fruit," said Natalie Newell, a registered dietitian with Rex Hospital.

Internet ads tout the acai berry's high content of antioxidants, molecules that slow or prevent the movement of free radicals in the body which damage cells.

"It's loaded with antioxidants, we know that. We don't know how much of that type of berry is getting to that product," Newell said.

Acai berry products go for a high price, but online testimonials claim the pay-off is weight loss.

However, Newell said, no research has validated those weight-loss claims. Any weight loss could result simply from replacing unhealthy food choices with the acai berry, she said.

Newell recommended locally grown berries as an alternative to $30 or $40 bottles of acai juice.

"If it will help a lifestyle change and get them motivated and make healthier choices and look for foods that are those super foods, they'll see that result," she said.

Experts say the best way to get more antioxidants is to include more richly colored fruits and vegetables in your diet.


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