While our present health model focuses on intervention after a disease state manifests itself,1 a growing body of evidence supports the power of nutrients in modulating the disease by off-setting inflammation in our body.
While scientists have isolated a number of disease-fighting phytochemicals in super foods and nutrients, acai berries have received national recognition based on a wealth of scientific data which shows that these berries have powerful antioxidant and health restorative abilities.2
Pronounced ah-sigh-ee, acai berries are a grape-like dark purple berry that is found growing on palm trees in Brazilian jungles and is revered for its high orac value.2 Orac is the abbreviation for oxygen radical absorbance capacity, which measures the antioxidant capacity of a given food substance.3
Based on all the collective data, researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) insist that between 3,000 to 5,000 orac units daily are needed to maintain antioxidant levels in tissues and plasma to neutralize or minimize oxidative reactions.3 Oxidation and free radicals are one culprit in disease processes.
Acai berries have an orac value over 5,000, which is ten times that of grapes and twice that of blueberries. Presently, acai, which is considered one of the most nutritious foods in the world, has the highest orac value of any other fruit.3 This super berry from all indications clearly prevents free radical aggression, which is prevalent in so many diseases.4
Studies on Acai Berries
The acai berry is a member of a class of flavonoids known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins, the pigments in plants and fruits that give them their bright rich colors, act to protect plants and fruits from ultra-violet sunlight.5 We can also glean the protective benefits.
In fact, researchers at Texas A&M University reported that subjects who consumed 7 millimeters per gram of body weight (7ml/kg) of acai berry after a 24-hour period reported increases in plasma antioxidant capacity up to 2.3 percent to 3 percent.6 In addition, researchers at Ohio State University recently isolated 22 known compounds in acai, known to inhibit free radical production.7
Acai berries also have a very high oleic content. In fact, 60 percent of the berry's content is composed of this omega 9 monounsaturated fat, which helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, while elevating HDL (the good) cholesterol levels. Acai also is comprised of 12 percent linoleic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid, as well as plant sterols.8
Plant sterols, which are found in plants, have been found to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine, thus minimizing the amounts of dietary cholesterol that reaches the bloodstream.
Acai berry is also a rich source of amino acids and protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein the body uses to construct hair, fibers, hormones, nails and muscle tissue. Also, the acai berry is loaded with fiber and contains a wide range of valuable vitamins and minerals.2
Besides these preventive benefits, some research has also shown this berry is effective in reducing metastasis (spreading to other parts of the body) of prostate cancer in men.9 Emerging research has also shown acai prevents the growth and reproduction of leukemia cells.
Today, considerable consensus shows antioxidants play a major role in reducing aging, the development of certain types of cancer, as well Alzheimer's, diabetes, arthritis, and a variety of age related diseases of decline.
While innate systems exist to neutralize free radicals, researchers today suggest additional antioxidants can bolster the body's defenses. Acai and other super berries, colorful plants and antioxidant rich foods can significantly increase our ability to neutralize these miscreants.
George L. Redmon, PhD, ND, is an expert on nutritional supplements, herbal botanicals and holistic health care. Published in various health and alternative health care publications, he has also authored six books focusing on alternative ways to treat and manage arthritis, chronic fatigue, sexual dysfunction and prostate disturbances.
1. Rubin, R. Prescription for Reform? USA Today Found online at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-09-13-ddrugs_cover Accessed on 05/18/09
2. Neida, S., Elba, S. Characterization of the acai or manaca (euterpe oleracea mart): a fruit of the Amazon. Archivos Latinoamericanos of Nutrition. 2007 March; 57(1): 94-98
3. Nutrient Data Laboratory. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of selected foods - 2007. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Found online at: www.sunsweetboosters.com/berry/does/orac07pdf accessed on 05/18/09
4. Rodrigues, R.B., Lichtenthaler, R., et. al., Total oxidant scavenging capacity of euterpe oleracea mart (acai) seeds and identification of their polyphenolic compounds. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2006 June; 54(12): 4162-4167
5. Pratt, S.G., Matthers , K. Super Foods. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.
6. Mertens-Talcott, S.U., Rius, J., et. al., Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (euterpe oleracea mam) in human healthy volunteers. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2008 Sept; 56(17): 7796-8002
7. Chin, Y.W., Chai, H.B., et. al., Lignans and other constituents of the fruits of euterpe oleracea (acia) with antioxidant and cytoprotective activities. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2008 Sept; 56(17): 7759-7764
8. DelPozo-Insfram, D., Brenes, C.H., Talcott, S.T. Phytochemical composition and pigment stability of acai (euterpe oleracea mart). Journal of Agriculture and Food Science. 2004 March; 52(6): 1539-1545.
9. Sartippour, M.R., Seeram, N.P., et. al., Ellastanin-rich pomegranate extract inhibits angiogenesis in prostate cancer in vitro and vivo. International Journal of Oncology. 2008; 32(2): 475-480