Cure-All Juices Part 1 - ACAI and GOJI

G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN

"There is a man in the waiting room who wants to talk to you", my receptionist told me. I looked out and made eye contact with a person who acted like he knew me. "Dang", I thought to myself. "I hate it when someone who I treated twice 10 years ago comes in and asks if I remember them, and I have to swallow my pride and say no, all the while hoping they will give me an out by telling me that they used to have a beard or they lost 50 pounds ." Thankfully, I had not seen him before. He had a name tag on indicating that he worked for a real estate company. After a brief introduction, I had to check on a patient. When I returned, my CA stopped me and whispered, "He is already seeing a chiropractor. He just wants your opinion." I thought to myself, "This will be fun", and prepared to hear a typical story about how someone wants him to come in 50 times or how his knee has not been getting better with continued manipulation of his neck; however, I guessed wrong again. His chiropractor had signed him up in a multi-level company and he wanted my opinion on the amazing juice blend which cured his arthritis in 5 days and his mother's 20-year battle with insomnia in 3 days. He launched into his spiel which had been working on chiropractors (he said he had signed up 5) and focused on 2 of the 20 ingredients (Acai & Goji). I let him talk for about 2 minutes and then cut in. He quickly realized that company testimonials and ‘in house' data would not work with me. So he changed tactics and then began to tell me what he was told rather than engaging me in a nutrition debate. I wanted to tell him go back to selling houses, but instead said "Feel free to provide me with human studies with your product." He replied, "That will be no problem!" After he left, my CA said, "Dr Andersen, why did you do that? Now he will come back." I answered, "No, he won't." "Why not?", "Because there are no human studies on his product."

Acai (Euterpe oleracea) is a palm tree from South America specifically in the Amazon basin that grows between 45 and 90 feet tall. It contains a small, round, purple and black fruit the size of a grape. It contains 12-15 vitamins & minerals, 15-20 amino acids with monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fatty acids. There are numerous phytochemicals including anthocyanins, proanthocyanins and resveratrol. Health claims for acai include antibacterial properties, sexual enhancement, antioxidant capabilities and a host of other applications, especially from those who sell the product. It's only a matter of time before we see some human studies, although it seems those who are getting rich from acai are in no hurry to have their claims tested. One of the marketing techniques used for acai is its high ORAC score. ORAC stands for "oxygen radical absorbance capacity" and is a method to measure the antioxidant capabilities of various substances. Unfortunately, marketers misunderstand and misuse the ORAC score. Furthermore, this misuse is now seeping into the public domain and ORAC does not measure a substance's ability against all types of free radicals. For example, a study in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition in February of 2005, found the acai berry to be ineffective in neutralizing hydroxyl radicals (even though it has a high ORAC score).1

Goji (Lycium barbarum) is also known as wolfberry. It is a shrub with vines and can grow as large as 10-12 feet high and 10 feet across. Goji berries are small (1 to 2 cm in length) and red-orange in color. It is a found in the north and west regions of China as well as Mongolia. There are claims that: 1) Tibet is a major source of goji, 2) Tibetan Goji is superior and, 3) goiji and wolfberry are different plants. I could not find definite answers to these points of contention except that trade records indicate, Tibet does not export any Goji.

Goji has been analyzed and contains 14-18 amino acids, at least 6 polysaccharides and 6 monosaccharides. It also contains fatty acids including linoleic and alpha-linolenic. carotenoids are abundant, especially zeaxanthin along with beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, vitamin B2, and vitamin C are the major micronutrients among the 20-25 vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals it contains. Like Acai, there is not yet a consensus on the exact nutrient profile. Health claims for Goji include prevention of cancer, especially in the breast. It has a high ORAC score. Other advertised uses include overall improvement of the immune system, vision, liver function, diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue, and "anti-aging" effects. I am skeptical of the claims made by those who sell these products. The purported health benefits are definitely intriguing, but human research is scant and most the data available is limited to in-vitro studies which is then extrapolated by marketers.

Next month we will look at two more juices that make health claims that rival those of Acai and Goji.

1 Lichtenthaler, R., Rodrigues, RB. Maia, JG. et al. Total Oxidant Scavenging Capacities of Euterpe Oleracea Mart. (Acai) fruits. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2005; 56(1):53-64


916 E. Imperial Hwy.
Brea, CA. 92821

(714) 990-0824
Fax: (714) 990-1917


Copyright 2004-2007, G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, 916 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821, (714) 990-0824