Confusion Over Acai Does Not Mute Market

Proponents swear by fruit's healing powers, but science remains skeptical.

ByABC News
March 12, 2010, 1:35 PM

March 26, 2010 — -- If you haven't seen the juice on your supermarket shelves or being sold in expensive bottles, you've probably seen it on TV or the Internet.

It's acai, the so-called "miracle" fruit from the Amazon. Now available in rejuvenating face creams ... and even in vodka.

Acai has been called the world's No. 1 superfood. Can one obscure fruit really be this good?

To find out, "Nightline" traveled all the way to the source -- the Amazon region of Brazil -- in search of the fruit with the name no one seems to know how pronounce.

Watch the full story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET

Click HERE for a slide show of how acai is produced, from harvest to market.

"The correct name is asa-yee," said Bony Monteiro, one of the biggest acai producers in the Amazon and a true believer in the fruit's powers.

The scenes along the Amazon were unforgettable: grown men shimmying up huge palm trees in search of what has become the most-sought-after new food in the world.

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"This is the skinny palms, you know; the black fruit there is the acai," said Monteiro.

The trees do not grow big and thick like the palm trees most people know.

Acai grows in the wild in clusters at the top of the skinny palm trees. It's bigger than a blueberry, smaller than a grape. People call it a berry, but it has just one seed ... so it's actually a fruit.

It's like a rock to bite.

"Actually, you need to take off the skin, and the skin makes the puree or the pulp we mix with water," Monteiro said. "It has kind of a coconut inside."