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Acai Berry Scam Exposed: We Called It!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
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.


Peter

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13 Response to "Acai Berry Scam Exposed: We Called It!"

  1. SaskPrairieLily Said,

    Thanks for your wonderful work in exposing the Acai Berry Scam. Your Obesity Panacea blog rates *****. I very much appreciate your excellent work in helping inform the public.
    A passionate pharmacist in Saskatchewan

    Posted on March 26, 2009 at 12:29 AM

     
  2. Anonymous Said,

    Thanks for exposing the Acai Berry Scam. Your great work is very much appreciated. Keep up the great work. Your health blogis 10/10.
    Regina Pharmacist

    Posted on March 26, 2009 at 12:35 AM

     
  3. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    Thanks very much for the encouraging comment, SaskPraireLily. It is always nice to hear from our readers and be reminded that we are having some impact.

    Peter

    Posted on March 26, 2009 at 9:25 AM

     
  4. Event Planning Said,

    There's a great post proving this Acai Berry thing is a scam - it shows all of the doctored photos and fake blogs, etc - very good:

    Acai Berry Scam Proof

    Posted on April 5, 2009 at 12:19 PM

     
  5. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @Event Planning: Thanks for the link - those pics are quite revealing.

    Too bad the link you provide 'exposes' the acai berry scam meanwhile it is peddling another gimmick. Readers beware.

    Posted on April 5, 2009 at 1:51 PM

     
  6. Event Planning Said,

    Hi,
    You said the link I provided is "peddling another gimmick."

    Since the tag-line of your blog is: "TWO PHD STUDENTS EMBARK ON A SEARCH FOR THE CURE OF OBESITY" and it seems you have never heard of the HCG Protocol, developed over 60 years ago by Dr. Simeons and proven to be almost 100% effective at curing obesity, I would think you would want to do some research on it first before dismissing it?

    Just my 2 cents.

    Posted on April 6, 2009 at 11:22 AM

     
  7. Travis Saunders, MSc Said,

    Hi Event Planning,

    Our tag line is meant to be tongue-in-cheek; most clinicians and researchers would agree that there is no cure or obesity, only treatments. We know there is no obesity panacea, nor is there a "cure for obesity", and our title is meant to be a reminder of that. Thus we are naturally wary of anything promising such a cure, and we feel that others should be wary of such products as well.

    Thanks for bringing HCG treatments to our attention. We will look into it, and plan to make it the subject of a post in the near future. If you (or anyone else) have any links to peer-reviewed research on HCG treatments please post them below.

    Posted on April 6, 2009 at 2:39 PM

     
  8. Travis Saunders, MSc Said,

    Our evaluation of HCG as a treatment for obesity is now up! To read the post on HCG click here.

    Posted on April 8, 2009 at 9:27 AM

     
  9. Anonymous Said,

    There's a great post proving this Acai Berry thing is a scam - it shows all of the doctored photos and fake blogs, etc Weight Loss Pills

    Posted on September 4, 2009 at 10:58 AM

     
  10. SirMoogie Said,

    Just caught this old story linked from Science Blogs. There's a new product out being advertised heavily with fake blogs called "Force Factor". It promises to get you ripped with little exercise, etc. Endorsed, allegedly, by various MMA fighters and sports stars. The blogs same before and after photos and blog comments,* but carry different names.

    * - I found that particularly hilarious.

    Posted on March 10, 2010 at 12:51 PM

     
  11. Anonymous Said,

    same thing happened to me i got one of the trial offers only costing me $6.94 for shipping and 14 days later i got charged $88.73 and got shipped another bottle soon as i noticed it in my bank account i called them and canceled my account i asked for a refund but i was told no so i started to think of ways to get my moneys worth from the company.... and i came up with this well first off i was getting the acai berry select and i did lose weight so i did like the product but i was mad at them so i went back to the webpage i ordered from www.freesupplementfinder.com and signed my self back up under my girlfriends name and only payed the $6.94 for shipping and the next day i called and canceled before they could bill me and i used a pre payed credit card so there was no way for them to ever bill me and i been doing it for the last 4 months so after my 5th month supply gets here i wont feal so bad about the $88.73 i got charged because i have got well over $88 in supplements i thought i would share my store with you guys who got ripped off by the acai businesses its time for you to start scamming them.

    Posted on March 11, 2010 at 10:18 PM

     
  12. Anonymous Said,

    So I clicked on a link online that ready something along the lines of ACAI BERRY EXPOSED, and what hoping to see an article like this, but instead saw that fake article, then wanting to find the truth about the berry I ended up seeing that article another 4 times before I found this page. Thanks for having the real info.

    Jon

    Posted on April 5, 2010 at 9:23 AM

     
  13. Anonymous Said,

    I had signed up for the acai berry free trial and paid shipping at $3.95. I called a week later to cancel it, on the web site it says if you cancel with in 2 weeks you won't have to pay until your free trial is over. When I cancelled it they told me I have to send it back or they will charge me. I wish I would have seen these comments before. I don't trust buying things on the internet for this reason.

    Posted on April 14, 2010 at 11:34 AM

     

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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.

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The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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