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Chile's maqui berry: the next superfruit?

The maqui berry has more anti-oxidants than any other berry. But does that mean it can aid weight loss and help prevent cancer?
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A civet eating coffee on August 11, 2009 in East Java, near Surabaya, Indonesia. Not the the maqui but cute nonetheless. (Ulet Ifansasti/AFP/Getty Images)

For a while, Brazil's acai berry was the world's favorite superfruit. Could Chile's maqui be the next global craze?

A Chilean company sure hopes so. But skeptics doubt whether any of these berries actually offer the trumpeted health benefits.

Scientists say the maqui berry has the highest anti-oxidant value of any berry yet discovered. Some people believe the high concentration of anti-oxidants can help aid weight loss, strengthen the immune system and ward off diseases, including cancer.

An American living in Chile, Britt Lewis, is one of those believers. He's built a small processing plant for maqui berries and obtained organic certification from the USDA and EU, reports the Patagonia Times.

And residents of the Chilean island of Chiloe, where the berry is grown, have long valued the fruit for its medicinal properties.

Yet the Amazon's acai berry was supposed to offer many of the same benefits. Media mogul Sumner Redstone said he hoped the juice would help him live another 50 years. Scientists however questioned whether the little purple berry could actually deliver the promised results. Reports The New York Times:

Despite the attention, there is little to back up the extravagant claims made on behalf of açaí. While the berry does contain antioxidants — molecules that can slow damage caused by the oxidation of other substances in the body — there are no long-term studies proving that açaí removes wrinkles or, as the various detoxification products claim, cleanses the body of toxins. Nor is there evidence to support dieters’ hopes for a magic fruit.

So how about the maqui: a bust or a natural wonder? For those to want to try it for themselves, Lewis says he started selling to "small health food stores" in the U.S.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephaniegarlow

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/que-pasa/chiles-maqui-berry-the-next-superfruit-update