ACAI SUPPLEMENT BENEFITS
There are many purported benefits of the “wonder berry,” the acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry, or palm berry, from the acai tree (Euterpe oleracea) in the rainforests of Brazil. The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry claims this pint-sized berry has more antioxidants than any other food on earth. But while it may pack a nutritional punch, it may not be a little bit overhyped.
The National Cancer Institute says that antioxidants, such as beta carotene, lycopene and vitamins C, E and A prevent damage to cells by neutralizing free radicals, dangerous molecules that try to “steal” electrons from healthy cells. When a healthy cell is damaged by a free radical, it can become cancerous. When antioxidants meet up with a free radical, it “donates” an electron, effectively neutralizing the free radical’s ability to steal from other cells.
The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that acai berries have the highest amount of antioxidants of any food on earth, which makes them a healthy food choice. Other foods loaded with antioxidants are blueberries, grapes and mangoes. While antioxidants are beneficial, they have not been found to increase sex drive, reduce wrinkles or cure warts.
The American Heart Association (AHA) found a significant correlation between the effect of free radicals on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and development of heart disease. Because free radicals are formed during normal metabolism and the inflammatory response, they are found in the bloodstream of all human beings. Antioxidants are helpful in eliminating these damaging molecules. Therefore, the AHA found that foods high in antioxidants are beneficial in affording some resistance to heart disease. Since acai berries are very high in antioxidants, they are an excellent food choice and can be part of a heart-healthy diet.
There are numerous unsubstantiated reports that acai berries can cure cancer or other diseases, as reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. A study at the University of Florida showed the berry extract’s ability to kill cultured human cancer cells. The study found that the extract triggered a self-destruct mechanism in 86 percent of leukemia cells. Researchers caution that the study does not suggest that the berry can cure or prevent cancer, only that it showed good response to cells in a lab.
Other antioxidant-rich foods, such as grapes and mangoes, have been found to have a similar effect on cancer cells in a lab. Researchers hope those findings translate to an ability to eliminate cancer in humans in the near future. Joshua Bomser, an assistant professor of molecular nutrition and functional foods at The Ohio State University in Columbus, says that eating an increased number of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of disease. That includes the little purple palm berry from South America.