Q: I drink juice that contains the Brazilian açaí berry. The claims are impressive—I've heard people say it has helped them lower their blood pressure to the point where they no longer need medication. What do you think? — Anonymous, Mesa, Arizona
A: I am often asked about these exotic beverages. There are now so many of them, I find it tough to keep track. I've come across a lot of test tube studies on the açaí berry, and it does seem to have an antioxidant effect that, in theory, could lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. But what happens in test tubes doesn't always hold true in people. I discovered one study on an açaí juice website involving 12 people. The subjects had slightly higher measures of antioxidants in their blood than people getting a placebo. Hard to tell what that means in terms of health. When I've looked into similar beverages before, my conclusions have been the same—the marketing hype has been well ahead of the science. That doesn't necessarily mean the juice is worthless. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that antioxidants are powerful health promoters but, so far, only when they are consumed in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate. The thing to remember is that juice adds calories and sugar to your diet. Consider that you can probably get the same antioxidant bang from whole fruit that is less exotic and less pricey. And wash it down with a big glass of naturally calorie-free water.