Acai Berry Supplements

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The acai (açaí) berry (pronounced "ahh-sah-ye" or ahh-sigh") is a small round fruit about the size of a grape from the acai palm which is indigenous to Central and South America. The acai berry is consumed raw or as a juice. The juice of the acai berry is used commercially for the production of jelly, syrup, energy drinks, liquors, and as a food colorant. The juice of the acai berry contains about 2.5% protein and 6% lipids, whereas, the pulp of the berry contains about 4% protein and 12% lipids. The oil compartments in acai fruit contain vitamins A, and E, and numerous polyphenols such as anthocyanins, procyanidin oligomers, vanillic acid, syringic acid, para-hydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid), protocatechuic acid, and ferulic acid. Each of these polyphenols have been shown to degrade substantially (30–40%) during storage or exposure to heat.

There are numerous health benefits attributed to the consumption of acai berry supplements including weight loss, prevention of heart disease, prevention of aging, stop cancer, improve sleep behaviors, improve sexual performance, and reduction of arthritis symptoms to name a few. In spite of all these claims, there is very limited scientific research to support any of these claims. Adding to the conflict is the fact that there are reports indicating that the acai berry contains high levels of antioxidants and others that claim only moderate levels.

To ascertain whether the antioxidant capacity of acai berry juice was comparable to that of other juices marketed for their antioxidant health benefits a study was performed to address four parameters of antioxidant activity. Scientifically these parameters are referred to as the Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC), total oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), free radical scavenging capacity by 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH), and ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP). The juices used in this comparative study were acai, apple, black cherry, blueberry, cranberry, Concord grape, orange, and pomegranate, as well as red wine, black tea, green tea, and white tea. This study demonstrated that pomegranate juice has the highest antioxidant capacity of all the juices/beverages tested and was at least 20% greater than the next closest beverage which was red wine. The polyphenol content of the various juices/beverages was consistent with the antioxidant capacities. In order of potency the various juices/beverages were: pomegranate juice >red wine >Concord grape juice >blueberry juice >black cherry juice, acai juice, and cranberry juice >orange juice, tea beverages, and apple juice.

In an acute four-way crossover clinical trial, acai pulp and clarified acai juice was compared to applesauce and a non-antioxidant beverage as controls. Healthy volunteers consumed 7mL/kg of body weight of each food/juice and their blood was repeatedly sampled over a 12 hr period and their urine over a 24 hr period after consumption. Non-compartmental pharmacokinetic analysis of total anthocyanins was quantified using cyanidin-3-O-glucoside as the measured polyphenol. The results showed that blood antioxidant capacity was significantly increased by the acai pulp and applesauce. Individual increases in plasma antioxidant capacity ranged from 2.3– to 3–fold for acai juice and pulp, respectively. The antioxidant capacity in urine, was not significantly altered by the treatments. Overall, the results of this study demonstrated the absorption and increased antioxidant effects of anthocyanins in acai in blood following acute consumption.

Studies on animals have shown beneficial effects associated with consumption of acai berry pulp. Rats fed a hypercholesterolemia-inducing diet along with 2% (weight/weight) acai pulp showed a reduction in serum cholesterol levels along with an improvement in antioxidant status compared to the rats lacking the added acai pulp. In another study using rats it was found that acai berry pulp added to their diets prevented hydrogen peroxide-induced damage to the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum. The data from this study suggests that acai berry polyphenols may have benefit with respect to age-related neurodegenerative disease.

Although it is known that the acai berry is rich in phytochemicals that possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and anticardiovascular disease properties, little is known about its potential anti-aging properties especially at the organismal level. In a recent study using fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) fed a high fat diet it was shown that supplementation with 2% acai pulp increased their lifespan compared to non-supplemented control flies. When these effects of acai supplementation were examined at the level of changes in gene expression a number of differences between treated and controls were observed. Of significance, the level of expression of l(2)efl (a small heat-shock-related protein) and two detoxification genes, GstD1 and MtnA were increased, while at the same time the expression level of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase, PEPCK (a key gene involved in gluconeogenesis was decreased. This latter effect, if it occurs in humans, would help to prevent excess blood glucose as occurs in persons who consume high fat diets and is a contributing factor in type 2 diabetes. An additionally important observation was that acai supplementation increased the lifespan of flies that were oxidatively stressed by inhibition of the antioxidant enzyme, super oxide dismutase (SOD). These results suggest that acai can improve the survival of flies fed a high fat diet through activation of stress response pathways and suppression of PEPCK expression. Thus, acai has the potential to antagonize the detrimental effects of fat in the diet and alleviate oxidative stress occurring during aging.

Supporting Research

Seeram NP, Aviram M, Zhang Y, Henning SM, Feng L, Dreher M, and Heber D 2008. Comparison of antioxidant potency of commonly consumed polyphenol-rich beverages in the United States. J. Agric. Food Chem. 56(4):1415-1422

Pacheco-Palencia LA, Mertens-Talcott S, and Talcott ST 2008. Chemical composition, antioxidant properties, and thermal stability of a phytochemical enriched oil from Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.). J. Agric. Food Chem. 56(12):4631-4636

Mertens-Talcott SU, Rios J, Jilma-Stohlawetz P, Pacheco-Palencia LA, Meibohm B, Talcott ST, and Derendorf H 2008. 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. 56(17):7796-7802

Olivera de Souza, M, Silva, M, Silva, ME, de Paula Olivera, R, and Pedrosa, ML 2009. Diet supplementation with acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp improves biomarkers of oxidative stress and the serum lipid profile in rats. Nutrition Dec 17, 2009 ePub ahead of print.

Spada PD, Dani C, Bortolini GV, Funchal C, Henriques JA, and Salvador M 2009. Frozen fruit pulp of Euterpe oleraceae Mart. (Acai) prevents hydrogen peroxide-induced damage in the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and hippocampus of rats. J. Med. Food 12(5):1084-1088.

Sun X, Seeberger J, Alberico T, Wang C, Wheeler CT, Schauss AG, and Zou S 2010. Acai palm fruit (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp improves survival of flies on a high fat diet. Exp. Gerontol. 45(3):243-251.

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Last modified: January 16, 2017