What are the health benefits of acai berries?

Acai (ah-sigh-EE) berries are a grape-like fruit native to the rainforests of South America. They are harvested from acai palm trees.

 

The fruits are about 1 to 2 centimeters (cm) in diameter and a deep purple color. The seed constitutes about 80 percent of the fruit. The taste of acai berries has been described as a blend of chocolate and berries, with a slight metallic aftertaste.

close up photo of berries

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

Acai berries have been called a superfood, with benefits ranging from improved skin appearance to weight loss, but not all of these claims are supported by evidence.

Health benefits

Many fruit and vegetables offer a range of health benefits, and acai berries are no exception.

Cognitive function

Age-related brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease have no cure, but research suggests that diets rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyphenolic compounds may lower the risk of these diseases.

Specifically, the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is abundant in acai berries, may lower oxidative stress and inflammation, promoting brain health.

Anthocyanins also have been shown to enhance and improve memory. They are thought to work by inhibiting neuroinflammation, activating synaptic signaling, and improving blood flow to the brain.

Heart health

Anthocyanin consumption has been strongly linked to oxidative stress protection.

One study has found that regular consumption of anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart attack by 32 percent in young and middle-aged women.

The fiber and heart-healthy fats in acai also support heart health. Heart-healthy fats increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Several longitudinal studies have reported a significantly lower cardiovascular disease risk and all-cause mortality with high consumption of fiber. Fiber intake also reduces LDL cholesterol.

Fiber intake is not only associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, but also a slower progression of the disease in high-risk individuals.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative and Health (NCCIH) note that consuming acai berries may help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels in people with excess weight.

Anticancerous properties

Anthocyanins have been observed to engage in anticarcinogenic activities, although the exact mechanisms are unknown. Laboratory studies using a variety of cancer cells have indicated that anthocyanins:

  • act as antioxidants
  • activate detoxifying enzymes
  • prevent cancer cell proliferation
  • induce cancer cell death
  • have anti-inflammatory effects
  • inhibit some of the beginning of the formation of tumors
  • prevent cancer cell invasion

These functions have been observed in multiple animal and culture studies.

A small study of 25 patients with colorectal cancer found that a 7-day intake of 0.5-2.0 grams (g) of anthocyanins resulted in improvements similar to other therapies.

However, larger studies are needed to confirm these results.

Performance in athletes

Results of a study published in 2015 suggest that consuming acai berry juice for 6 weeks did not improve the sprint performance of seven athletes.

However, it was linked to an increase in plasma antioxidant activity, serum lipid profiles improved, and it appeared to help with exercise-induced muscle injury.

Nutrition

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

Acai berries are rich in fatty acids, especially oleic, palmitic, and linoleic acids.

Although acai berries contain very little total protein, they do contain 19 amino acids, as well as several sterols, including campesterol, stigmasterol, and beta-sitosterol. The phytochemicals in acai berries include mainly anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins.

Acai berries contain more antioxidants than other commonly eaten berries. They also are high in fiber and heart-healthy fats. The antioxidant effects of acai berries have largely been attributed to phenolic compounds.

Antioxidants in the body are believed to help protect against various diseases as they can neutralize oxidative damage caused by environmental stressors, such as pollution.

Leave a comment

Filed under acai berries, antioxidants, heart, heart health, stress, stress reduction, Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s