For quite a while questions about acai berries, the supposed weight loss aid, ran rampant and only lately this flood died down a good bit. But nonetheless you still find numerous offers for seemingly free trials of this little fruit, that supposedly helps you lose weight and lets you stay young into your 90s.
First Problems In 2009
The first problems with acai products already became evident in January of 2009, when the Better Business Bureau issued a warning to consumers about the above mentioned “free” trials, saying they often turn out into you unkowningly signing up for costly monthly shipments of acai juices or supplements.
Later that same year, popular talk show host Oprah Winfrey and her on-air doctor Mehmet Oz sued 50 Internet retailers for using their names and pictures to advertise acai berries and related products. This was followed by the FTC getting a court order against several acai-selling companies, stopping them from using deceptive advertisements and unfair billing practices.
From The Jungle To The Internet
Times look dire for the little berries, but it gets worse when we look – quite literally – at where they are coming from.
In its natural South American home the acai palm grows wild along the Amazon river and its energy-dense berries can be picked for free, which already a long time ago made them a staple in the diets of the poor. This high calorie content ultimately also was what brought them from the rain forest into the urbanized world, when it was discovered by Brazilian bodybuilders. One of them told National Public Radio:
I eat a lot of acai after lifting weights because it’s got a lot of calories and because I like the flavor.
How this turned into “eat acai berries to lose weight” is hard to fathom. We can only guess that clever marketing of something exotic and novel could have led the people the FTC estimates were shilled out of $30 million to buy into it. That the last year so rightfully enraged Mrs. Winfrey four years earlier advertised the berry as a “super-fruit” herself of course didn’t help either.
Picture courtesy of Decio Horita Yokota.