The açaí diet is widely touted as a natural weight loss and detoxification aid. Although there are different forms of the açaí diet, most approaches involve the use of dietary supplements containing açaí and other herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural substances. However, despite claims by some proponents that the açaí diet can speed up your metabolism, suppress your appetite, and cleanse your system, there is no scientific evidence that the açaí diet promotes weight loss.
What Does the Açaí Diet Involve?
In most cases, proponents of the açaí diet advocate using dietary supplements that contain açaí and other natural substances said to aid in weight loss. These substances may include:
- B vitamins
- Cascara sacrada
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- Green tea
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Yerba mate
The Science Behind the Diet
To date, most of the data on açaí’s potential health benefits come from laboratory studies and animal-based research. For instance, a 2010 study from the journal Nutrition found that rats fed açaí for six weeks experienced decreases in oxidative stress and in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. In addition, test-tube research suggests that açaí may stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.
In one of the human-based studies testing the health effects of açaí, researchers found that açaí consumption may increase antioxidant levels. Published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2008, the study involved only 12 people.
There is no scientific evidence that açaí consumption can promote weight loss.
While research on açaí is lacking, some preliminary research indicates that other substances included in some forms of the açaí diet may help promote weight loss. For instance, a 2009 research review published in the International Journal of Obesity determined that catechins (antioxidants found in green tea) may help boost metabolism and have a “small positive effect” on weight loss and weight maintenance. In a 2011 review from the Journal of Obesity, meanwhile, researchers found that CLA may be effective for weight loss. (However, since the supporting research is limited, the authors warn that more research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of CLA supplements.)
There’s also some evidence that yerba mate, chromium, and hoodia may help promote weight loss. However, there are some safety concerns associated with these substances. For example, yerba mate may trigger anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and headache, while hoodia and chromium may have negative effects on blood sugar levels.
It’s also important to note that no studies have tested the weight-loss effects of any of these substances when taken with açaí. Therefore, claims that the herbs, vitamins, and minerals included in the açaí diet work “synergistically” to promote weight loss and/or cleansing are unwarranted.
It’s important to keep in mind that supplements haven’t been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of combination herbal products marketed for weight loss and bodybuilding.
Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.
Due to the lack of scientific support for its effectiveness, no form of the açaí diet can be recommended for weight loss. Additionally, more research is needed to determine the safety of the açaí diet.
If you’re looking to lose weight, the National Institutes of Health recommend following a weight-management plan that pairs healthy eating with regular exercise. Keeping a food diary, getting eight hours of sleep each night, and keeping your stress in check may also help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
There’s also some evidence that certain mind-body techniques (such as yoga, acupuncture, and tai chi) may support your weight-loss efforts.
If you’re considering the use of any form of the açaí diet to promote weight loss, talk to your doctor first.