Obesity Panacea

Photo credit: Jeff Cronin

In the recent past both Travis and I have taken a jab or two at the evolving acai berry craze, whether it was making fun of celebrities (i.e. Rachael Ray) who endorse it or by critiquing weight-loss products based on the magical berry (i.e. AcaiBurn). Apparently, we were onto something.

This past Monday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released a consumer warning, urging consumers to not fall prey to the viral ads of countless acai berry based products for weight loss, sexual dysfunction, cancers, and other ailments.

In the warning, the following is stated:

“There’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that açai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions.”

In a more light-hearted tone, David Schardt, the CSPI senior nutritionist said:

“If Bernard Madoff were in the food business, he’d be offering ‘free’ trials of açai-based weight-loss products.”

Aside from the lack of evidence backing any of the acai berry product claims are sketchy business practices of most of the companies peddling the products.

In fact, almost 3 months ago, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) had released their own warning concerning online sales of such products.

In that warning, it was said that the “BBB has received thousands of complaints from consumers nationwide who thought they were signing up for a free-trial offer of acai berry weight loss products that were supposedly endorsed by Oprah, Rachel Ray and other celebrities; in the end, the free trial cost them, month after month.

Apparently, the “free-trials” all these companies are offering, just like the AcaiBurn that I recently blogged about, can end up costing you quite a bit. In a scheme called “negative option”, the consumer must log in a credit card number to receive the free trial – as soon as they do so, they unknowingly also purchase subsequent orders of the product for which they will be charged in the near future. And cancelling your subscription is apparently close to impossible (stories of being on hold for 75 minutes while attempting to cancel product purchase), such that the “14-day free-trial” can turn into a lifetime expense.

Additionally, various companies have also been setting up fake blogs, written by non-existent people touting the benefits of acai berry based products, particularly for weight loss. According to the CSPI report there are at least 80 different blogs written by different people, with all of them having the same personal before and after pics of their acai-berry body transformation. And who is the woman in the photo? It turns out she’s a German model whose photo has been photoshoped to give a nice before and after comparison. Thus, Tara, Olivia, Alicia, Becky and others of ” [Insert name] Weight Loss Blog” are all the same German model who was totally unaware her picture was being used to scam consumers into purchasing a bogus product.

Even more interesting, a recent study has shown that while acai juice is often touted to be the highest in antioxidants, it apparently pales in comparison to many other juices in its anti-oxidant properties such as grape, blueberry, and black cherry juice.

For future reference, if you come across a product that you are tempted to purchase, first check the BBB for a review of the company selling that product at http://www.bbb.org/ , where you will find a free online database with over 4 million reports on different businesses

Also you can check out this Fraud Alert written by the CSPI for how to ensure you don’t get scammed by online health products which has a bunch of helful tips.


Originally posted March 25, 2009


  1. #1 Tim Ellis
    May 13, 2010

    Aha! I have trendier friends who’ve commented on wanting to try some of the Acai stuff. I’ll be sending them this link before they waste their money.

  2. #2 Blake
    May 13, 2010

    Great post. I get so sick of seeing those ads online. Hopefully more people will now realize it’s a scam.

  3. #3 Ken Leebow
    May 14, 2010

    No surprise here … they’ve learned from Big Pharma. Got osteopenia? You might want to check out this NPR story – http://bit.ly/cqgOdX.

  4. #4 izzlecanoe
    May 14, 2010

    Great post. But I do find it annoying that alongside your posts are advertisements for the very products you are exposing. Can science blogs be persuaded not to allow advertising from such woo pushers.

  5. #5 Travis
    May 16, 2010

    @ Izzlecanoe,

    You’re absolutely right. We’ve started to notice these types of ads popping up on the site lately. Ironically, those ads are the very reason why we never used Ad Sense back when we had our own site at http://www.obesitypanacea.com. I’ve sent some emails to the people in charge of the site, and hopefully we can get them taken down.


  6. #6 Jim Purdy
    May 16, 2010

    Those phony ads are infuriating. And it’s even more disappointing when they appear often on many of my favorite news sites. When a news site carries lying advertisements, it takes away from the credibility of their news stories.

  7. #7 tonysidaway
    May 16, 2010

    Though it would obviously be great if these ads for time and money-wasting schemes were not carried on reputable sites such as Science blogs, most good web browsers either come with a tool that can be used to block ads or can provide this facility through an add-on.

  8. #8 Travis Saunders
    May 18, 2010

    I’ve spoken with the upper-ups, and the weight loss ads are being pulled ASAP. I’ve noticed a few this morning, but I’m hoping that will end very soon. Give it a few days, and if you still notice the ads on our blog or any other ScienceBlog, take a screen capture and email me so I can pass it along to management.



  9. #9 Translations Insert
    July 17, 2010

    Know what you need to do to be compliant and avoid the risk while Translation Medical Insert, Translations Medical Insert and gain the perspective and position of a medical device industry expert.

  10. #10 Aca Juice
    October 8, 2010

    This product works. Myself and my wife have used it several times and we were amazed with how it works and i cannot stress it enough.I strongly recommend this product to anyone

  11. #11 art
    January 6, 2011

    You were onto something, eh? A couple of obnoxious PhD pretend know-it-alls. Mehhh! Acai berry products may be fake, but then so are you!

    January 14, 2011

    WOW: ART: I guess you don’t like PhDs because they are way smarter than you. Too bad.

  13. #13 Edo State News
    February 24, 2011

    I have heard it worked but have never tested it

  14. #14 I've tried it...
    March 8, 2011

    I’ve tried it, but I did not purchase it online. Wasn’t that stupid. I went in to a local health store and I’ve been using it. It definitely helps boost metabolism and I have lost weight, but I’ve also been working out lightly so that helps as well.

    It’s a matter of finding someone not out to scam money out of you.

  15. #15 Demo Man
    March 11, 2011

    Does anyone know of anyone who actually has had sucess with this? I have seen the sites as described above and I cannot believe the fcc lets them get away with that

  16. #16 steve suffoletta
    March 12, 2011

    is there any police’ing at all on the net. anybody watching cyber thieve’s. this stinks of wall street and friends. hope some folks get the picture.

New comments have been disabled.