What are the health benefits of acai berries?
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.
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.
This feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of some popular foods. It looks at the nutritional breakdown of acai berries, its possible health benefits, how to get more acai berries into your diet, and the possible health risks of consuming acai berries.
Many fruit and vegetables offer a range of health benefits, and acai berries are no exception.
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.
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.
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.