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Alternative Medicine: Can Açai Juice Help Prevent Cancer?


You may have heard of açai juice by now. In the past couple of years, marketers have been touting it as the next wonder drink, able to fight cancer with its strong antioxidant properties.

The açai is a tall, slim tree that grows in the tropics. It's plentiful in Brazil and Guyana. In Latin America, people eat its leaf buds, which look something like cabbage. Açai juice comes from the berries of the tree.

Açai juice has been written about in the Wall Street Journal and featured on the Today Show. One doctor praised the juice while he was on the Oprah show, and that catapulted its popularity right away.

But is there any validity to these health claims?

Açai juice comprises

  • 1-4 percent protein
  • 7-11 percent fat
  • 25 percent sugar

    It also contains some calcium, phosphorus, iron, sulphur, vitamins B1 and E and beta carotene.

    This juice has antioxidants in it, yes. It has things in it that are good for you, in other words. But is it a cure-all? A miracle drink? Not likely.

    There's no clinical evidence to support claims that açai juice will cure disease. Some of the compounds found in açai juice have been known to slow the growth of cancer cells in test tubes, but these compounds, which are antioxidants, are found in many common fruits. That's why many cancer experts recommend that people eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables in the first place.

    One of the compounds in açai juice is called anthocyanin. It's a flavonoid that's also found in grapes, blackberries and raspberries. Researchers have found that the anthocyanin in açai is not stable and breaks down in heat and humidity. Even the enzymes in the açai berry itself contribute to the breakdown of anthocyanin.

    Many people like the taste of açai juice, which is all well and good. But don't forget that açai juice contains a lot of sugar, which is not beneficial, especially if you have diabetes. It's also fairly expensive. And it's not a cure-all for cancer by any of the known clinical standards of the day.

    CancerDecisions Newsletter, 5 February 2006;
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