Acai berries are the fruit of the Euterpe Oleracea palm, which grows only in the Amazon. The inhabitants of the Amazon have used these precious berries for millennia as a nutritious food but also as a remedy for various diseases. Nowadays acai berries can be found in all supermarkets, thanks also to the science that has demonstrated their beneficial properties we are talking about in today's article.
The pulp of acai berries provides monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, a characteristic that makes these berries unique compared to other types of fruit. Not only that, acai berries contain antioxidant substances, such as anthocyanins, luteolin, quercetin and kaempferol, but also carotenoids such as lutein, astaxanthin, zeaxanthin, carotene and lycopene (D'amico et al, Mol Neurobiol, 2022). Then, acai berries provide minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese, and vitamins, such as vitamin A, group B, E and C (da Silva Santos et al, J Toxicol Environ Health A, 2014 ).
Acai for mood and memory
Acai berries show an anxiolytic and antidepressant action, very similar to that of the active ingredient imipramine, used as a basis for drugs to counter depression. It is believed that the beneficial action is due to the antioxidant and anti-aging properties in the brain areas most involved in the case of depression, such as the hippocampus, striatum and prefrontal cortex (Souza Monteiro et al, Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2019). Not only that, this fruit helps consolidate memory, even in stressful situations (Silva de Carvalho et al, Food Nutr Res, 2022).
Acai against neurodegeneration
Acai berries are neuroprotective thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant action and capable of counteracting the formation of protein aggregates toxic to the brain (D'amico et al, Mol Neurobiol, 2022). Studies have observed that taking acai helps to reduce some symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, such as motor problems, stiffness, tremor but also anxiety and depression (D'amico et al, Mol Neurobiol, 2022). Not only that, the intake of acai berries has also been shown to counteract dementia and the consequent alterations of the hippocampus, the area of the brain where memory is located (Impellizzeri et al, Cells, 2022). Studies have shown that acai berries can also be beneficial in the fight against Alzheimer's, since they are able to inhibit the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, which degrades the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (Alnasser et al, Molecules, 2022).
Acai for heart health
Acai berries protect the heart, helping to reduce the values of bad LDL cholesterol and post-prandial blood sugar (Silva de Carvalho et al, Food Nutr Res, 2022). Not only that, acai berries also counteract hypertension (Kim et al, J Food Biochem, 2021).
Acai to protect the respiratory tract
Acai berries have been shown to protect the airways and lungs from acute and chronic inflammation (Genovese et al, Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, 2022). Examples of acute inflammations are pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome while asthma and obstructive pulmonary disease are chronic inflammations.
Acai for wound healing
Oral intake of acai berries has been shown to speed up wound healing processes. In particular, the acai berries acted with a dual action, regulating inflammation on the one hand and some growth factors on the other, such as vascular endothelial growth factor, which is a protein that plays a key role in the processes of wound healing (Interdonato et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2023).
Acai, how to take it and warnings
Acai berries can be taken in different forms. Easy to find is the frozen pulp of acai berries, often used to enrich smoothies. Not only that, acai berries can also be sold in powder form, to be added to yogurt and smoothies, but also as juice or dry extract. It is good to remember that acai berries are a healthy food rich in beneficial properties but, like any other food, they should be included in a balanced diet without excesses. In fact, acai berries are particularly rich in manganese and studies have observed that already 300 ml of acai pulp could provide a higher amount of manganese than the recommended daily amount. Manganese, when in excess, alters the absorption of iron and this could be a problem especially in children and in people suffering from anemia (from Silva Santos et al, J Toxicol Environ Health A, 2014). More research will have to follow to understand the effect on iron absorption of acai berries but, while science takes its course, we can consume these precious healthy berries in moderation.