What is acai?
Acai (pronounced ah-SAH’-ee) are considered one the very best fruits in the world when it comes to its antioxidant powers. Native to Brazil’s rainforest, acai berry fever is sweeping the nation and many are wondering, what does this berry really do?
Before I get to what acai does, this berry is chockfull of some very very healthy items. For instance, anthocyanins (ACNs), proanthocyanidins (PACs), and other flavonoids were found to be the major phytochemicals in the berry.
Two ACNs, cyandin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-rutinoside were found to be predominant ACNs; three others were also found as minor ACNs. In addition, acai also includes components such as fatty acids, amino acids, sterols, minerals, and other nutrients. Nineteen amino acids were found in the berry with the total amino acid content was determined to be 7.59% of total weight.1
Who needs acai?
Like anyone interested in promoting general health, acai, like other berries rich in polyphenols is good for all individuals. I mean, how many of us actually get enough fruits and vegetables for that matter? None of you raised your hands? Figures. That seems to be the case with most North Americans. Heck, I bet if you ask someone who lives in a straw hut in the middle of the Amazon, I betcha they eat more polyphenol rich foods than there are fleas on a Beagle.
What does the science show about acai?
The science is growing faster than vines on an old New England building. The acai berry is the fruit of the acai palm and is traditionally consumed in Brazil but has made its way to the good ole US of A. A recent study found that plasma antioxidant capacity was significantly increased by the acai pulp.2
Another study found acai to have the highest antioxidant capacity of all berries. Using something called the superoxide scavenging (SOD) assay, the acai was the highest of any food reported to; accordingly, the SOD of acai was "by far the highest of any fruit or vegetable tested to date." In fact, in the total antioxidant (TAO) assay, antioxidants in acai were differentiated into "slow-acting" and "fast-acting" components.3 Sort of like the slow and fast protein category, this particular berry exhibits slow and fast components of antioxidant ability.
Acai has also demonstrated what are called cytoprotective activity in cultured MCF-7 cells.4 Meaning that this berry can help keep your cells healthy and undamaged.
Another study investigated the absorption and anti-proliferative effects of phytochemical extracts from acai pulp and a polyphenolic-enriched acai oil obtained from the fruit pulp of the acai berry (Euterpe oleracea Mart.). Results from this study provide further evidence for the bioactive properties of acai polyphenolics and offer new insight on their composition and cellular absorption.5 Meaning, the health benefits of this berry are indeed astounding.
Another interesting tidbit is that acai may induce a vasodilator effect; that is, it may increase blood flow to certain regions. In fact, the vasodilator effect of acai may be dependent on some type of nitric oxide mechanism! Pretty intriguing, eh? Some scientists believe that the vasodilator effect suggest a possibility to use acai as a medicinal plant.6
Wait, there’s more! Another cool substance found in acai is something called C3G. Cyanidin 3-glucoside (1040 mg/L) aka C3G is the predominant anthocyanin in acai and correlated to antioxidant content, while there are also 16 other polyphenolics found in acai!7 Interestingly, C3G has significant potency as an anti-diabetic agent.8
One could hypothesize that the anti-diabetic properties as well as the strong antioxidant properties of acai make it an ideal berry to add to your mix of dark rich fruits that contain high levels of healthy polyphenols.
Is acai safe?
Are ya kidding me? Are blueberries safe? Strawberries? It’s a friggin’ berry. Though touted as a super food, or perhaps a super-duper food, acai is clearly another piece of evidence to show that foods rich in polyphenols (i.e. fruits and vegetables with bright or rich colors) are indeed some of the healthiest foods found on Planet Earth. Whether that’s true on other planets, time will tell. Nontheless, as far as acai, eat more of it. It’ll do the body good.
How much Acai should I take?
Presently, it is unknown if an optimal or ideal dose exists. It would be like telling something the optimal amount of blueberries to eat. The best advice we can give is that you consume it as part of an overall clean diet that emphasizes lean protein, unprocessed carbohydrates such as brown rice, yams, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, etc and some healthy unsaturated fats (such as from fish, flax, and vegetable sources).
And remember—you can get the best acai supplements at the best prices from A1Supplements.com!
Jose Antonio PhD is the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (www.theissn.org) and an avid outrigger paddler.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.