Health Benefits Of Acai Berries

  • Manal AndijaniMSc genes and proteins in disease - Sheffield Hallam University, UK
  • Saba Amber BSc, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

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Introduction

The acai (pronounced ah-sah- EE) berry is one of the many so-called “superfoods” along with blueberries and pomegranates. They are found in the Amazon rainforest, in Brazil and grown on a type of palm tree known as ‘Euterpe oleracea’.1 They are called a superfood for its varied health benefits that range from improved skin appearance to weight loss amongst other benefits.2

However, not all of these claims have been scientifically proven and further research is required. The acai berries taste can be described like a mix of chocolate and blueberries with a strong metallic aftertaste. The berries are believed to contain antioxidants which help protect against cell damage from free radicals.

They also contain essential amino acids at a higher concentration when compared to other fruits. Fresh acai berries have a short shelf life and aren’t usually available outside the region of where they are grown. When exported, they are sold as a frozen fruit purée, dried powder or pressed juice.

About acai berries

Health benefits of acai berries

Weight loss

Scientists believe that the high fibre content in the acai berries may help to suppress appetite which can contribute to weight loss. But drinking or eating huge amounts of acai berries is not a magical weight loss solution. Instead, they should be consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Antioxidant effects

Many of the neurodegenerative disorders are thought to be caused by an accumulation of free radicals which are associated with a dysfunction of the oxidative defence system.3 This means a low concentration of free radicals is essential for normal cell function. The central nervous system (CNS) is more sensitive to the presence of free radicals due to the high uptake of oxygen by the brain.

Studies have shown that antioxidants are important in neutralising free radicals and maintaining healthy cells by preventing damage from free radicals. Acai berry extract is rich in antioxidants which are responsible for regulating cellular activities.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Pharmaceutical studies have shown that acai berry extract has an anti-inflammatory effect A study showed that a two percent extract of acai berry was responsible for a reduction in proinflammatory transcription factors and showed improvement in cognitive functions in a group of ageing rats compared to control group of rats. Further study is required to examine these properties and to investigate how they can be useful in a healthcare setting.

Antidepressant and anti-ageing effects

Many neurodegenerative disorder patients develop depression at some stages of the disease. A large number of antidepressant medications have been found to cause side effects of varied severity, it is essential to find another remedy. In one study, acai berries were introduced to the diet of a depressive mouse model. They showed improvement in their depressive behaviour after the treatment with acai berries.

Anti-cancerous properties

Acai berry extract (Anthocyanins) have been shown to be involved in anti-cancerous activities, however, the exact mechanism is not clear yet. Studies that introduced anthocyanins to different cancer cells have reported some positive activities such as induction of cancer cell death, inhibiting the formation of a tumour, and preventing cancer cell invasion.

Improving cholesterol levels

Some studies have shown that acai berries may improve cholesterol levels by decreasing the total amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) present in the body. It is possible that anthocyanins found in acai berries could be responsible for lowering cholesterol levels, however, more research is still needed to verify this.

Additionally, acai berries contain plant sterols which prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by the human body which can also contribute to lowering cholesterol levels.

Nutrients we can get from acai berries

Studies have shown that acai berries contain fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. Acai berry pulp has been extensively examined and found that it contains several biologically active phytochemicals and a high amount of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids which are not found in other fruits or berries.

In addition to this, acai berries are high in protein and have a high energy and nutritional value. Amino acids represent a total of 7.95% of nutrition found in 100g of acai berry and this includes:

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Lysin
  • Methionine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Glutamic acid
  • Threonine
  • Tyrosine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Valin
  • Hydroxyproline

Those amino acids have been reported in the literature, but scientists claim that traces of other amino acids can also be found. Acai berries contain healthy fats and low amounts of sugar, as well as many trace minerals and plant compounds, including anthocyanins which are beneficial for your health.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one 3-gram teaspoon of acai berry powder contains:

Additionally, acai berries are higher in antioxidants when compared to other fruits and these antioxidant activities have been attributed to phenolic compounds.1 

Ways to include acai berries for our health

Acai berries have become popular among people who are looking to benefit from natural remedies to improve their health. There are lots of ways to include acai berries in our diet:

  • Fresh acai is the ideal form if you can get it in order to ensure that the acai you are eating is of top quality
  • Dried or frozen acai works well when it is hard to find fresh acai berries
  • Juice or concentrates can be easier to consume on the go
  • Powder or pill forms of acai have a long shelf-life so are easier to consume without the worry of a quick expiry date

There are different ways and recipes you can add acai berries on to enjoy the health benefits and taste:

  1. Add acai berries to yoghurt to make a delicious frozen yoghurt with some honey
  2. Combine frozen pomegranate seeds with the acai puree, honey, vanilla, and lime juice
  3. Toss acai berries into different healthy snacks to sweeten them up
  4. Make a summer salad, with spinach, red onions, cashews, and acai berries
  5. As a drink. Using a powder, acai juice, or liquid concentrate can make it really easy to benefit from the health benefits from consuming acai berries

How much is enough?

Reading or finding about the health benefits of acai berries can be promising especially for weight loss. It is important to note that no independent single study has been done on acai berries to prove that using acai berries alone can promote weight loss or improve certain health conditions.

In order to achieve good health, an overall healthy eating pattern is the key for disease prevention. You need to check if you have an allergy to similar types of berries before consuming acai berries. 

Excess consumption of acai berries can cause significant reduction in blood pressure and this sometimes can be fatal; especially for people who have cardiac problems. People who are breastfeeding should avoid eating acai berries as it might be harmful for the infant. However, more research still needs to be conducted in this regard.

The bottom line is, studies conducted on acai berry and their findings are still new and it has not been extensively studied. More research is needed to support the health and weight loss claims. As with any other new food, precaution is required and intake moderation is essential to avoid any possible side effects.

Summary

Currently, due to its high content of antioxidants, researchers have started to conduct more studies on acai berry extract. Most of the studies have been conducted to illustrate the capacity of acai berry extract in improving neurodegenerative disorders as many of the neurodegenerative disorders are caused by oxidative stress.3 Which results in cellular dysfunction and death, therefore, reducing the oxidative stress and clearance of toxic bodies can decrease the chance of developing neurodegenerative disorders. 

Acai pulp extract has shown a promising effect in regulating the pathological process that is involved in the development of neurodegenerative diseases as well as controlling the anti-aging process. It has also been shown to have an antidepressant-like effect. 

These current findings offer valuable insight into acai pulp extract and its considerable therapeutic applications. While the initial studies claim that acai berries are healthy and rich in antioxidants, there are insufficient studies on the possible side effects which may affect individuals who suffer from certain conditions (such as high blood pressure), therefore, caution is always essential when consuming acai berries for the first time and to watch for any possible side effects.

References

  1. ALNasser MN, Mellor IR. Neuroprotective activities of acai berries (Euterpe sp.): A review. J Herbmed Pharmacol [Internet]. 2022 Apr 1 [cited 2023 Mar 21];11(2):166–81. Available from: http://herbmedpharmacol.com/Article/jhp-40183 
  2. Schauss AG. Açai Fruits: Potent Antioxidant and Anti‐Inflammatory Superfruits with Potential Health Benefits. Dried Fruits. 2013 Feb 15:393-413.https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alexander-Schauss/publication/236834465_The_acai_palm_fruits_Euterpe_oleracea_Euterpe_edulis_Euterpe_precatoria_potent_antioxidant_and_anti-inflammatory_superfruits_with_potential_health_benefits/links/0deec537a52c4242ec000000/The-acai-palm-fruits-Euterpe-oleracea-Euterpe-edulis-Euterpe-precatoria-potent-antioxidant-and-anti-inflammatory-superfruits-with-potential-health-benefits.pdf 
  3. Nowak D, Gośliński M, Przygoński K, Wojtowicz E. The antioxidant properties of exotic fruit juices from acai, maqui berry and noni berries. Eur Food Res Technol [Internet]. 2018 Nov 1;244(11):1897–905. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00217-018-3102-8 
  4. Zoumbaris SK. Encyclopedia of wellness: from acai berry to yo-yo dieting. ABC-CLIO; 2012. 1022 p.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Manal Andijani

MSc genes and proteins in disease, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Experienced Research Specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education institution, highly skilled in DNA sequencing, specifically Next generation sequencing and single-cell RNAseq. I have ten years of experience as a Research Specialist in Genomics laboratories and Stem cell and regenerative medicine. In addition, I am a qualified fitness personal trainer with an ambition to help women over 40 and with chronic conditions reach their health goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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