The small grape like fruit (which is commonly pronounced a-sigh-ee) comes from a palm tree that grows in tropical Central and South America, such as the Amazon region of Brazil. This fruit has a large seed, with very little pulp. The juice and pulp from the berry is commonly used in juices and other beverages in these countries.
The potential health benefits from this berry (as well as other dark berries, like blueberries and raspberries) come from their pigment. Berry pigments contain Anthocyanin Antioxidants. A national symposium on the benefits of Anthocyanin Antioxidants held in 2005 presented data from laboratory studies showing potential benefit in:
- reducing the blood from clotting (potential stroke and heart attack prevention)
- increasing levels of “good” cholesterol, HDL
- decreasing the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol, LDL
- neutralizing oxygen radicals which can cause tissue damage (aging)
- down-regulating enzymes leading to inflammation
There is some data that the acai berry (particularly when freeze dried) has higher level of anti-oxidants than other dark berries. Some reports state it has 10 to 30 times the antixoidant ability of red wines (which have been studied in humans and have shown a beneficial effect). Specific studies on the acai berry have shown it to have potential anti-inflammatory benefits and in one University of Florida study some anti-cancer effects, but these have been done only in test tubes. The benefits are not yet proven in humans.
Other benefits from the Acai berry come from its amino acids and essential fatty acids. The fatty acid content in açaí is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid which has potential cardiovascular benefits. Amino acids help build muscles.
Bottom Line: There are certainly benefits from eating berries, some of which come from their anthocyanin antioxidants, and the Acai berry seems to be full of them, as well as other good things. There have been no studies that I can find that show human benefit. Since the berry is natural, its extract may help you and likely will not be harmful.
A few caveats:
1. Make sure you are doing other beneficial things for health and aging, such as diet, exercise, sun protection, stopping smoking, and controlling chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.
2. If you are going to use Acai berry as a supplement, make sure are already taking the supplements that are proven to have benefit, such as vitamin D and Calcium.
3. Acai berry appears to be sold comerically in juices. To make juices taste good and feel like they are working, sugar and caffeine are respectively added. Thus, the benefit of the acai berry may be outweighed by what you are getting with it, so be careful.