Thursday, April 23, 2009

Warning: Açai Berry Scam


Have you heard of the açai (pronounced "ah-sigh-EE") berries?
They come from South America, look like grapes and have been touted as a superfruit. You can buy
açai juice (selling for $40 a quart! ), juice powder, tablets, smoothies, as well as the whole fruit.

The Center for Science in the
Public Interest (CSPI) is warning the public to stay away from signing up for online "free samples" of açai products since thousands of consumers have had their credit cards charged and have had trouble stopping recurrent charges.


The Claims:

You'll lose weight, flatten your stomach, have more energy, cleanse your colon, improve your digestion, enhance sexual desire, improve heart health, improve your skin, sleep better, reduce your cholesterol levels.

The Science:


There's none. There's no evidence that the berries live up to any of their claims.
A
study comparing antioxidant-rich beverages was published in Feb 2008 and found that pomegranate juice, red wine, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice and black cherry juice all had higher levels of antioxidants than açai juice (however, the açai juice had more antioxidants than orange juice, iced tea and apple juice).

The Controversy:

Oprah's famous doctor guest, Dr. Mehmet Oz, included açai, along with tomatoes, blueberries and broccoli as healthy foods. A guest on Rachel Ray also talked about the açai beverages.
As a result, ads and websites such as
oprahsamazingdiet.com and rachaelray.drozdiet-acaiberry.com, have been created claiming Oprah and Rachel Ray have endorsed the products and steering visitors to fake blogs of people that have supposedly lost a lot of weight on these products. Free samples are also offered .

Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Rachel Ray have publicly disassociated themselves from the açai sites (and taking legal action).

The Best Business Bureau (BBB) have received thousands of complaints from consumers that have had their credit cards charged (up to almost 200$) after ordering a "free" trial of açai supplements.

Protect Yourself:

The CSPI suggests that if, despite the lack of scientific evidence that the product had any benefit, you still want to try to get a "free" trial of an açai product, check the company on the BBB site first. Click "check out a Business or Charity" and enter the information you have on the company before signing up for anything. For example, FX supplements that markets Acai Berry Maxx received an F rating from the BBB's online report due to the fact that the company received 213 complaints in the last 12 months.
Other a
çai sites that have received an F rating include FWM Laboratories (runs www.acaiberrydetox.com ), Pure Acai Berry Pro (Advanced Wellness Research), AcaiBurn, Acai Berry Maxx (FX Supplements) and SFL Nutrition.

Furthermore, use a prepaid credit card with a low credit limit or a virtual credit card that shields your real credit card number
.

The misleading and deceptive açai health claims are currently being investigated and the fraudulent companies have yet to be caught... so beware.

Note that
at least one brand, Açai Berry Select, contains 200 mg added caffeine per capsule-the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee- and they recommend you take 2 capsules a day. Remember that women in childbearing years should aim for less than 300mg caffeine a day as high caffeine intakes have been linked to miscarriages. Something else to consider.

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