Q. I read your column religiously and appreciate your advice and wisdom. I wanted to know if you have any knowledge of and insight into a juice product made from the acai berry plus other items. I've been hearing a lot about it lately, but I'd like to separate fact from hype, if possible. It sounds almost too good to be true. Can you enlighten me?
-- S., San Diego, Calif.
A. The acai berry comes from the acai palm, a tree that is native to Central America and South America. The berry is the guardian for the seeds of the plant, and, like most berries, it grows in the sun. As a result, the berry requires nutrients for the seed, along with antioxidant compounds to protect against the destructive rays of the sun. The acai berry has all the appearances of a healthful food. But does it offer a unique benefit we couldn't get from red or black raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate or even a glass of orange juice?
The Sept. 24, 2008, issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry contained an article that tested a product made from the acai berry. It reported that drinking the juice increased the antioxidant capacity and decreased lipid peroxidation, both beneficial effects.
While that sounds impressive, keep in mind that there are similar studies for other healthful foods. Each new fruit brings its novelty and its own brand of marketing. Enjoy them all, but keep things in perspective. Simply because a fruit is new doesn't make it more healthful than the ones we've been eating for years.
Q. I read an article you wrote about triglycerides. I had very high triglyceride readings after my heart attacks 22 years ago. No one could come up with an answer about how to lower them until a nurse practitioner came up with the answer. She suggested that I try taking TriCor. The effect was almost immediate. My numbers dropped from very high to very low. I know that you are a nutritionist and recommend proper diet, but the use of TriCor was almost a miracle, since no one for 20 years had any suggestions on how to lower my triglyceride numbers.
S.P., San Diego, Calif.
A. TriCor is the brand name for a prescription medication based on the compound named fenofibrate. It is one of the medications that can be used to lower elevated blood triglyceride levels. I am pleased that you have experienced this success. I hope you have had a chance to read through the accompanying documentation about this drug. If not, I suggest you visit a Web site such as drugs.com, where you can find consumer information on this compound. Touch base with your health professionals if you have any questions.
Having a very high triglyceride level is not good, and the fact that you have already had a heart attack heightens the concern. It is great that you have a nurse practitioner who has helped.
I trust that you appreciate the fact that while the medication has lowered your triglyceride level, it has not lessened the importance of diet and lifestyle factors. Your nurse practitioner or physician has likely mentioned this. Continue to live that healthy life and there will be more of it to enjoy. I wish you well.
• Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and the author. Write him at "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Newspaper Enterprise Association, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.