The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

One pharmacist’s experience with Acai

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 10:52 pm on Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Its pretty safe to say that most, if not ALL of us get asked about every single trend in “dietary supplements”.  If its not Oprah’s guests touting the health benefits of some ‘system’, its somebody else doing the same. Everybody is looking for the magic bullet: something to make us thinner, younger looking, more virile (if you are a male), protect us from disease, help us sleep better yet provide us with more energy.  I mean really, isn’t that the holy grail of all things in the drug world?  If we could ever truly latch on to some extract that could accomplish even HALF of these things then there would be some serious money made by its founder/inventor/discoverer.

Enter the Acai berry.  I started getting inquiries about it a few months ago.  We didnt’ stock any and our wholesaler didnt list anything under Acai yet.  Since being informed makes the Chick look good, I decided to check out this product and see if it sniffed of scam.

First of all I looked for scientific study and didnt find much.  What I did find was a lot of “free” (but not really) trial offers.  You know the ones:  “try it free for 14 days, and if you dont manage to send it back, we charge you an exhorbitant price and enroll you in automatic shipping for a monthly supply of our junk. AND even if you do send it back, we will somehow LOSE your return and charge you for it anyway and you will spend the next 3 months trying to get a refund.  Ha ha you sucker…”  This does not bode well for my objective investigation into Acai and scored high on my scam-o-meter.  Nevertheless I kep trying.   I never found any bonafide studies, but there was a lot of anectodal/testimonial evidence that would intice one easily influenced to believe its claims.

Lets discuss its claims.  Depending on what website you look at Acai claims it will make you feel less hungry, speed up your metabolism without stimulants, is a powerful antioxidant, cause you to lose weight like you were a cancer patient, make you sleep better, but have more energy during the day.  Of all these claims, the one most believable would be its claims about antioxidants.  It is quite an antioxidant and for that it may be a worthy supplement.  The rest is debatable. 

However, for some inexplicable reason (maybe those 10 lbs of fat around my middle), the Chick decided to test the claims herself. 

First order of business: Pick a vendor who is NOT a rip off.  This is harder than it seems.  I wanted an Acai product that was pure and not something like 10% Acai.  I did NOT want a not-so-free trial.  I wanted to pay for what I was buying and not be roped into some automatic shipping nightmare I’d have to wade thru Hell for to free myself from. I also wanted to purchase from a reputable site and not some vaguely described Malaysian internet pharmacy/warehouse. Lastly, I was looking for somebody who might tout the real benefits of the product and not some hype. After wandering thru most of the  w.w.w  I narrowed in on one site: Amazon Thunder.

Now before you start screaming “Hey Chick, are you endorsing a product?”  the answer is NO, I am not endorsing anything, I am just telling a story. 

I found this site to sell a purified product that I would have to pay for and it didnt promise the fountain of youth, nor did it promise I would be leaving a trail of fat behind me as I walked off my excess pounds. They let their testimonials tout all its benefits, carefully leaving out any specific health promises in its official information.  After 2 weeks of thinking about it, I leaped in.  Being the ever cautious shopper, I made my purchase on instead of its own website and got free shipping (which may be significant because it came in two big glass bottles). I also looked at the reviews and decided on the puree in the bottle instead of its other offerings.  Several reviewers described the concentrated powder as tasting like “dirt”.  Since I am pretty sure I would not enjoy eating scoopfuls of dirt daily, I opted for the liquid.

I am happy to say that the liquid does not taste like dirt, but I am not sure I would describe it as a beverage either. Its a very thick puree that has some grape juice added for flavor as the berry itself isn’t very sweet.  I am grateful that a 1oz serving is standard because nobody would be able to consume very much of it. Its very thick, but pleasant tasting once you get used to it. I drink it down like a shooter, then rinse out the glass with water (lots it left behind) and drink the rest. It is low in calories, something like 15 calories  per ounce so the user isn’t consuming a dessert whilst supplementing his/her health.

But what about its benefits, Chick?  Thats what we are waiting for!

Two weeks into it, I still look 45. I haven’t lost any weight, and that bag of potato chips still calls my name at 10:30 every morning.  I still sleep about the same, and my energy level remains unchanged. The jury is still out on whether it has helped my golf game.  I don’t have any chronic illness for which I am hoping for a cure, so I am not looking to Acai to heal me, tho I must admit I was hoping for the appetite suppression. Maybe it takes a while to kick in.

I still have 1 bottle to go. I may even re-order once to give it the old’college try. Its not a miracle product. I am not cinching up my belt from any dramatic weight loss and nobody is asking the Chick to pose for the next SI swimsuit issue.

However, the stuff’s not bad and who knows, maybe all those antioxidants may  provide some unforeseen benefit down the road.  You are at least getting what they advertise, and nobody is roping anybody into any predatory auto shipments thru sneaky terms of service.

All I can say, is if there ever is any discovery that delivers on all these things without causing painful tumors or boils all over our bodies, the stuff will sell itself and the world will beat a path to its door waving fistfuls of money.

And, oh, could I be that inventor……hope springs eternal.



Comment by RXJOE

March 18, 2009 @ 8:06 am

The stuff is bullshit… I have had 2 customers who are dumb enough to join a pyramid scheme (they’re convinced it’s actually networking) where they sell this stuff called Mon-A-Vie. It comes in what look like wine bottles and the pamphlets they publish tell you it cures just about EVERYTHING!! I can’t believe people spend money on the crap… costs like $40 a bottle, but they try to suck you into the pyramid scheme by telling you that you can join them and sell it to your friends, and that way it pays for your own supply. Excuse me, but may it’s more like a Ponzi scheme, not pyramid!!!


Comment by Jade

March 18, 2009 @ 10:53 am

Maybe, the beauty of it is that it’s psychologically addicting?

Seriously, though, some of the upcoming goals in a comprehensive federal health initiative called Healthy People 2010 is to get a majority of Americans up to speed with evaluating internet healthcare information. Sounds like this acai berry scenario would be a test-case for Information Technology-101 How to evaluate health claims on the internet. (Evaluating reports of drug and herbals is part of the nontraditional PharmD program here in the mideastern cornfield country.


Comment by The Ole' Apothecary

March 18, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

Whatever the claims and potential scams, my first question about these products reigns supreme:


That’s my starting point for any of these things.
And mine too, At least in this product, its Just berry puree and some grape juice. According to the most professional internet literature that is out there, the acai berry (and other dark fruit) rates #1 on the antioxidant scale pound for pound. Whether there is any real measurable health benefit, who knows. What I have gathered from this is there appears to be nothing inside this product that can harm you, unlike other “supplements”. For instance, one of my customers (who didn’t consult me prior) decided he wanted to lose weight. He purchased Hydroxycut. He already had health issues: Hypertension, history of thrombosis, CHF. Thankfully we had scheduled lunch together. He told me had taken 2 days worth of the diet aid and 2 tabs that day and was feeling really lousy. On top of that, he was getting really winded after walking short distances. I told him to stop Hydroxycut immediately, check his blood pressure and contact his dr. He checked into an urgent care clinic to moved him to cardiac care. His BP was rocket high, and he was in A-fib. He spent 3 days in the hospital. He was taking something like 400mg of caffeine each day.


Comment by The Ole' Apothecary

March 18, 2009 @ 5:46 pm

“See these things? Buffalo chips. I know a fellow who used to sell these things as fast as the buffalo could squeese them out.”

—“Lone Star” (1995 film)


Comment by Amanda

March 18, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

I went on a date with some guy a few years back who tried to rope me into the pyramid scheme that was Monavie or whatever. Claimed to cure cancer (antioxidant) but we are learning in pharmacy school that too-high-dose antioxidants can actually be harmful to the body. Who knows. It’s probably just a good thing that the average American is ingesting ANY kind of fruit willingly, even if it is the Acai berry!


Comment by chris

March 19, 2009 @ 6:14 am

We have a patient that is obsessed with supplements, buys alsorts from the healthfood shop across the way from us, and comes in regular to ask about different vitamin and minerals etc preps. Myself and her doctor had a really hard time to desperately get her to cut it out when she got pregnant, i only hope she took our advice as i still see her popping into the health food shop from time to time. Why do people read natural and think safe?


Comment by Karen H

March 22, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

Thanks for being our test patient! I always put a lot more stock in how a ‘real person’ responds to a supplement. And kudos to you for making sure that the brand you tested does not have harmful ingredients… Once again, go chick!

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