Over the last couple of years there has been an explosion of products highlighting Brazilian Açai health benefits. Some of the benefits of Açai are founded in good science. Some of the claims about the Açai berry are exploitive. This article will help you sort out fact from fiction.
The Brazilian Açai berry has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, MSNBC News, and in numerous books including one by Dr. Nicholas Perricone who listed this berry as his number one “superfood.” With an amazingly high ORAC value and nutritional density, I use an açai concentrate as part of my ORAC Shake.
Açai Health Benefits
The Açai berry grows in the rainforests of the Amazon. It is a small, round, dark purple berry that consists of a large pit with only 10 percent of the berry being edible. The berry is tart in taste. Many people comparing it to red wine with a touch of chocolate.
Because the Brazilian Açai berry spoils so easily it is not usually found in health food stores located in the United States. Typically, health stores would offer Açai juices or Açai extracts at different levels of concentration.
In the ORAC Rating Table that I use to help power my antioxidant program, 3.5 ounces of Açai has an ORAC value exceeding 18,000 units which makes it 3 times more powerful than prunes the next highest fruit; and 10 times more powerful than kale the highest vegetable. Thus a single ounce of concentrated Açai has over 5,000 ORAC units.
Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends a diet of fruits and vegetables that will allow you to consume somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units per day. Because of expense, most manufacturers that use the Açai berry will cut its concentration but still claim high ORAC values. To properly determine the Açai health benefits it’s important to know the concentration of Açai. Most juices are watered down and offer little nutritional value. To really enjoy Açai health benefits make sure your product is made from an Açai concentrate. The higher the concentration the greater the health benefits in this amazing berry.
Even though a small portion of the berry is edible, it is rich in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that effectively counters free radical damage. Because of this marketers of Açai make the following health claims (the author’s comments are in parenthesizes):
As of the end of 2008 there are very few controlled human studies to back up many of these claims. Part of the reason for this is that the Brazilian Açai berry has only been commercially available for the last 10 years.
The person who seems to have done the greatest amount of research on Açai health benefits is Dr. Steven Talcott. In 2006 Dr. Talcott published a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. This study clearly showed that Açai extracts were able to trigger a self-destruct response in up to 86 percent of the leukemia cells tested. According to Dr. Talcott:
“This was only a cell-culture model and we don’t want to give anyone false hope. We are encouraged by the findings, however. Compounds that show good activity against cancer cells in a model system are most likely to have beneficial effects in our bodies.”
In 2008, Dr. Talcott co-authored another study with his wife Dr. Susanne Talcott. This study was also published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and was the first research involving humans. This study clearly showed that the human body is able to absorb the antioxidants contain in the Brazilian Açai berry. According to the researchers, “both the Açai pulp and Açai juice showed significant absorption of antioxidant anthocyanins into the blood and antioxidant effects.”
From other nutritional research the Açai pulp contains:
What this means is that the Brazilian Açai berry is an almost complete and ideal meal by itself.
Because the Brazilian Açai berries are extremely rich in organic vegetable protein it does not generate cholesterol during its digestion like animal proteins will do. Plus, this organic vegetable protein is an almost perfect complex of essential amino acids which are necessary for proper muscle development and regeneration.
The Açai health benefits include both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. This promotes healthy digestion and can aid in lowering blood cholesterol. The Açai berry is also rich in plant sterols called phytosterols. This includes beta-sitosterol which helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Fiber also helps to control carbohydrate absorption which aids in maintaining consistent blood sugar levels. This aids diabetics and helps maintain good energy levels over a long period of time.
The fatty acid content in the Brazilian Açai berry resembles olive oil. It is rich in omega fatty acids especially linoleic acid and oleic acid. These two essential fatty acids help to lower the bad LDL cholesterol while maintaining the good HDL cholesterol. This also aids in hormonal balance, neurotransmission, and improved insulin receptor function to help reduce inflammation.
All of the above are definite Açai health benefits but the main reason why the Brazilian Açai berry has gotten so much attention is because it’s rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that effectively combat free radical damage which is one of the leading causes of aging and degenerative diseases. This is especially important to heart health, cardiovascular health, vision health, and the prevention of Advanced Glycation End products that damage collagen, especially collagen in the skin.
One of the most powerful nutritional tools that you can use to help prevent degenerative diseases and potentially slow down the aging process is to use a highly concentrated Açai product. The higher the concentration the better! Although it will cost more for this type of product, the amount needed to achieve the Açai health benefits are typically one ounce.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the ORAC videos and articles below:
The Power of ORAC! (Video)
The ORAC Shake! (Video)
The ORAC Salad! (Video)
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.