The acai diet is widely touted as a natural weight loss and detoxification aid. Although there are different forms of the acai diet, most approaches involve the use of dietary supplements containing acai and other herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural substances. However, despite claims that the acai diet can speed up your metabolism, suppress your appetite, and cleanse your system, there is no scientific evidence that the acai diet promotes weight loss.
What Does the Acai Diet Involve?
In most cases, proponents of the acai diet advocate using dietary supplements that contain acai and other natural substances said to aid in weight loss. These substances may include:
- B vitamins
- cascara sacrada
- conjugated linoic acid (CLA)
- green tea
- omega-3 fatty acids
- yerba mate
The Science Behind the Acai Diet
To date, most of the data on acai'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 acai for six weeks experienced decreases in oxidative stress and in LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels. In addition, test-tube research suggests that acai may stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.
In one of the human-based studies testing the health effects of acai, researchers found that acai 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 acai consumption can promote weight loss.
Other Ingredients in the Acai Diet
While research on acai is lacking, some preliminary research indicates that other substances included in some forms of the acai 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.
Learn more about the side effects of hoodia.
Learn more about the side effects of chromium.
It's also important to note that no studies have tested the weight-loss effects of any of these substances when taken in combination of acai. Therefore, claims that the herbs, vitamins, and minerals included in the acai diet work "synergistically" to promote weight loss and/or cleansing are unwarranted.
Using the Acai Diet for Weight Loss
Due to the lack of scientific support for its effectiveness, no form of the acai diet can be recommended for weight loss. Additionally, more research is needed to determine the safety of the acai 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.
If you're considering the use of any form of the acai diet to promote weight loss, talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.
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