Acai is a berry (fruit) that grows from the palm tree “Euterpe Oleracea” also known as Acai Palm, the tree is native to tropical Central and South America, it grows mainly in floodplains and swamps.
The Acai berry tastes like a blend of berry and chocolate, it is round, reddish-purple and 1–2 cm in diameter.
The Acai berry is a relative to blueberries, cranberries and other dark purple fruits, a variety of Acai products are available in the market in the form of juices, powders, tablets, and capsules.
Proponents of alternative medicine have touted Acai as a non-conventional treatment to fight off acne.
In Brazilian herbal medicine, the juice of the Acai is used to treat diarrhea, fever and even Jaundice (a condition in which the skin and eyes turn yellow because of a high level of bilirubin in the blood, mainly because of liver disease). An infusion of the fruit is also used as a topical wash for skin ulcers.
In the Peruvian Amazon, an infusion of the Acai juice and toasted crushed seeds is used to treat fever, diabetes, liver disorders, hair loss, hemorrhage, kidney diseases, and muscle pain.
Scientific Health Evidence
- The Acai berry has been shown to contain a number of antioxidants (flavonoids), phytosterols and monounsaturated fatty acids (Mertens Talcott et al., 2008).
- In laboratory research, Acai has displayed anticancer properties but only in rodent models (Stoner et al., 2010).
- Related to its antioxidant content, and anti-inflammatory activity(Schauss et al., 2006).
- In overweight subjects, Acai consumption was found to slightly reduce levels of Total Cholesterol (Udani et al., 2011).
Acai berry seems to be a fruit with antioxidant properties and unique fatty acids profile, the latter seems to be the trait that may differentiate it from the rest, as probably only Avocado being the other fruit with a similar fatty acid profile.
The flavonoids content in Acai is not the highest, but to some extent, it may exert anti-inflammatory properties.
Phytosterols are unique chemicals that occur only in plants, in these case, the palm tree “Euterpe Oleracea”, the biological role of phytosterols have been studied for decades regarding human metabolism, the premise of phytosterols is to reduce LDL Cholesterol by inhibiting intestinal absorption of dietary cholesterol, nevertheless, there's no solid scientifically proven evidence of any beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk since Cholesterol metabolism is a complex mechanism and cardiovascular health is multifactorial.
The key benefit of Acai relays on its monounsaturated fatty acid profile, it has been shown that monounsaturated Oleic Acid (like the one found in Acai) may help the body to improve absorption of Omega-3 (an essential fatty acid) through aiding cell membrane up-regulate transporters for more effective signaling.
Other nutrients found in the berry such as potassium, iron, phosphorus, and calcium may not offer a health benefit per se since the concentration of these micronutrients is not relevant.
Some internet sources (not scientific) claim that Acai berry possesses more proteins than an egg as well as a high content in water-soluble vitamins like B1, B2, B3, and vitamin C, these claims are absolutely false since Acai does not provides the 9 essential amino acids that make up a complete protein, and even so, animal protein sources will always be superior to plant protein sources because of its bioavailability, leading to a higher absorption pre-ileum (the final section of the small intestine where Its main function is to absorb vitamin B12 and bile salts).
According to the literature Acai berry contains 1%–4% protein, 7%–11% fats, 25% sugar, 0.05% calcium 0.033% phosphorous, 0.0009% iron, some sulfur, traces of vitamin B1, vitamin A, and E.
“Acai berry is an amazing fruit from a nutritional point of view, it may not help or cure chronic and severe conditions like the ones claimed in historical uses but it will indeed enrich our diet with antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids like Oleic Acid, it can be a great substitute for olive oil or even a better option from the already nutrient-rich Avocado.”
Jensen GS, Ager DM, Redman KA, Mitzner MA, Benson KF, Schauss AG. Pain reduction and improvement in range of motion after daily consumption of an acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp-fortified polyphenolic-rich fruit and berry juice blend. J Med Food. 2011.
Schauss AG. In vitro and in vivo antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities of an antioxidant-rich fruit and berry juice blend. Results of a pilot and randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover study. J Agric Food Chem. 2008.
Mertens-Talcott SU, Rios J, Jilma-Stohlawetz P, Pacheco-Palencia LA, Meibohm B, Talcott ST, Derendorf H. Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in human healthy volunteers. J Agric Food Chem. 2008.
F, Maia JG, Almeida O. Total oxidant scavenging capacity of Euterpe oleracea Mart. (acai) seeds and identification of their polyphenolic compounds. J Agric Food Chem. 2006.
Schauss AG, Wu X, Prior RL, Ou B, Huang D, Owens J, Agarwal A, Jensen GS, Hart AN, Shanbrom E. Antioxidant capacity and other bioactivities of the freeze-dried Amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleracea Mart. (acai). J Agric Food Chem. 2006.
Schreckinger ME, Lotton J, Lila MA, de Mejia EG. Berries from South America: a comprehensive review on chemistry, health potential, and commercialization. J Med Food. 2010.
Stoner GD, Wang LS, Seguin C, Rocha C, Stoner K, Chiu S, Kinghorn AD. Multiple berry types prevent N-nitroso methyl benzylamine-induced esophageal cancer in rats. Pharm Res. 2010.
Udani JK, Singh BB, Singh VJ, Barrett ML. Effects of Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: a pilot study. Nutr J. 2011.