Acai Berry: Is It All It’s “Juiced” Up to Be?

Posted: October 15, 2010 in Better Health and Fitness
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Although the jury is still out, there are many within the sports and fitness community who claim that athletes require antioxidant supplementation in order to maximize performance and maintain good health. The argument for antioxidant supplementation in sports is that physical activity promotes the production of free radicals, which may cause oxidative damage and other diseases. However, some recent research also suggests that, with training, the body’s antioxidant capacity is enhanced to meet that increased need. One of the more heavily promoted antioxidant supplement today is the Acai berry. Acai (pronounced a-sigh-EE) comes in a variety of forms including juice, pulp, powder, and capsule form. The berry has been touted as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. The fruit is said to contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential to human health. One retailer who sells acai says it helps athletes in particular. Its website says that “acai is not only highly energizing, it provides incredible stamina and a host of other health benefits. So, if you are an athlete who is looking for that little extra boost and a competitive edge, look no further.” Unfortunately, these claims are unfounded and there is still much debate about acai berry and juice. According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), “there’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that acai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colon, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions.”

But what does the research say? In a recent, controlled study of young male athletes, researchers found that giving the antioxidants vitamins C and E to individuals with no prior vitamin deficiencies had no effect on physical adaptations to strenuous endurance training.

The conclusion of the study was that antioxidant supplementation may not be necessary in the first place. As for acai juice itself, the results of the research is mixed, according to Denmark researchers. In a recent study, antioxidant potency, the ability to inhibit LDL oxidation, and total polyphenol content were consistent in classifying the antioxidant capacity of the polyphenol-rich beverages in the following order: pomegranate juice, red wine, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice, black cherry juice, acai juice, cranberry juice, orange juice, iced tea beverages, apple juice. The acai berry was a lot lower on the list than the websites and promoters would have you believe.

Bottom line: Since these supplements may not be necessary in the first place, and the amount of actual fruit in the juice may be negligible, it seems that the smartest recommendation, to date, to enhance your athletic performance and maximize your antioxidant intake is to adhere to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and choose two cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables daily.

Understanding that today’s busy schedules don’t always allow for the athlete to eat a balanced meal and that for many the training table is at the local McDonald’s, there are some products available that have the right blend of healthful fruits and nutritional supplements that enhance the body’s immune system, support the cardiovascular system and promote recovery after a vigorous training session. If you would like more information on these and other nutrition products see….

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