The Acai Berry, What Can It Do For You?
Euterpe oleracea is a palm tree that grows mainly in the Amazonian areas of Brazil and Colombia. It bears a purple berry like fruit known as Acai berry. The tree’s height might exceed the 25meters. The berries are clustered in bunches and each tree usually has 3-4 fruit bunches.
The most common places for the berries to grow are in upland regions, in swamps and on floodplains of the Amazon. (1) The flowers are quite small and their size depends on the gender: 3.2 × 2.6 mm for the female and 4.5 × 2.7 mm for the male flower. They are a globose shape and their diameter is 1.1-1.5 cm. Their color is green at the begin and turns to dark purple when they grow and mature. (2) For poor people in Brazil and Colombia acai berries are an important fruit and their juice is used in several beverages and fruit preparations. In addition, this group of people have been using acai berries for hundreds of years as part of their medicine, especially as a treatment of diarrhea. (1) In other areas, they are used for the treatment of parasitic infections, ulcers, hemorrhages or fever. Peruvian traditional medicine uses the roots against malaria, pain or liver diseases.
The Nutrient Breakdown
Nowadays and after several studies related to the characteristics and properties of the berries, the scientific community considers them as a superfood. An amount of 100 gr. of freeze-dried acai provides about 534 calories. The total carbohydrates are 52.2 gr., which are mainly fibers (44.2 gr.) and the sugars are only 1.3 gr. They also provide 32.5 gr. of fat (and omega fatty acids) and 8.1 gr of proteins. Acai berries are rich in Vitamin A, calcium and iron. Moreover, acai berries provide sodium, Vitamin C and beta-carotene. (1) Other inorganic compounds found in acai berries are: manganese, boron, phosphorus, zinc, chromium, potassium, nickel and magnesium. In addition, several bioactive substances characterize the acai berries. Most of them are flavonoids, phenolic compounds and anthocyanins. (3)
The Health Benefits
It's Packed Full of Antioxidants
There are several studies talking about the high antioxidant capacity and potential anti-inflammatory activities of acai berry. The high levels of polyphenols, anthocyanins, flavonoids and carotenoids make the acai a significant antioxidant source. Studies showed that the high content of anthocyanins plays an antiproliferative role on different cancer cells. Moreover, scientists observed that other berries rich in anthocyanins do not have similar inhibitory activity, demonstrating the unique benefits of acai consumption. (4)
Can it really prolong life?
In addition, a study about the effects of acai pulp supplementation concluded that it results to the extension of life span. Another scientific group tried to correlate the acai pulp intake with the prevention of oxidative damage. In this study, Barbosa and colleagues reported not only the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of acai pulp consumption but also its anticholesterolemic action. (5)
Can it protect your heart?
In relation to the above findings, Udani and colleagues (2011) tried to evaluate the effect of açai fruit pulp on cardiometabolic risk factors in overweight adults. Acai berries are high in omega fatty acids and this study provided evidence to support their beneficial role. The 30- day consumption of acai fruit pulp resulted in a reduction of fasting glucose, insulin levels, total cholesterol and Ldl-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels. (6) The high fibre content of acai makes it a good carbohydrate source for diabetics who aim at blood glucose regulation.
A research group (2014) tried to evaluate the cardioprotective effects of acai extract on rats subjected to Myocardial Infraction. In this study, scientists concluded that treatment with acai extract showed a preventive role against the cardiac hypertrophy, dysfunction and the exercise intolerance. (7)
Can it make Endometriosis a thing of the past?
According to a study of 2016, acai extract may be an effective treatment for endometriosis, which is an inflammatory disease associated with infertility and chronic pelvic pain. This study demonstrated the antiangiogenic and anti-inflammatory potential of acai. Additionally, scientists concluded that acai may modulate the progress of endometriosis and reduce the pain caused by the inflammation. (8)
Acai and Psychiatric Disorders
Machado and colleagues published in 2016 an article based on laboratory studies. This article presented the potential of acai extract to be used as an alternative for drug development to treat neuropsychiatric diseases such as Bipolar Disorders. Although these claims are not yet confirmed in humans, they are very promising. (9)
Acai berries should be kept cold to maintain its nutritional value. Antioxidants like anthocyanins are unstable and degrade quickly if you expose them to heat. To get the maximum of the acai nutrients they should not be cooked meaning that berry recipes that use pulp and juice are of debatable value. Therefore, it is wise to use tablets of acai to get the maximum of its nutrients. Additionally, a combination of acai and green tea would be more beneficial to the individuals who aim on weight-loss. Supplementation with tablets of acai and green tea will provide a great mix of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that will help you build a stronger immune system and lose weight efficiently.