Acai Berry Select Is Not Just For Weight Loss And Colon Cleanse
By Matthew Denos, PhD
The numerous health benefits of diets rich in botanicals have been demonstrated by a great number of studies. Acai is a fruit from the palm tree that grows in the Amazon River area in South America. Numerous experts have praised the health benefits of Acai. This purple fruit of the berry family has been known as a superfood and dietary supplement that possesses a broad spectrum of therapeutic properties. Although Acai Berry products have been mostly marketed as weight loss supplements and colon cleansers, recent studies show that there is much more to this berry than its potential to shed excess pounds and improve intestinal health.
Like other berries, Acai is rich in anthocyanins—a type of phytonutrients that are responsible for the red, purple, and blue colors of many fruits. Clinical trials, animal and cell-based studies, as well as biochemical analyses have demonstrated that anthocyanins exhibit a number of biomedical functions. These include anti-inflammatory, anti-cardiovascular and anti-carcinogenic activity—the latter evidenced as a decrease in the growth of cancer cells by more than 50% . Anthocyanins also exhibit beneficial effects in reducing age-associated oxidative stress, improving neuronal and cognitive brain function, and repairing and protecting DNA integrity. This makes them an excellent anti-aging supplement given that DNA damage or mutation accumulation is thought to be a major cause of aging.
Acai Increases Lifespan – The Study
According to the free radical theory, aging is the result of oxidative damage caused by the so-called reactive oxygen species; these are highly reactive molecules that can destroy all sorts of cellular components. Oxidative damage to macromolecules, such as DNA, tends to accumulate in the cell as an organism ages and is thought to be one of the causative factors of aging. Reducing oxidative damage is believed to be an effective aging intervention. In fact, animal experiments have shown that reduction of oxidative damage extends lifespan.
A recent study, published in the January 2010 issue of Experimental Gerontology, examined for the first time the potential anti-aging properties of acai berry in Drosophila melanogaster, a popular experimental animal known as “fruit fly” . The study evaluated the anti-aging effect of acai on two aging models; flies that were fed a high fat diet and flies that had been pre-conditioned to live under severe oxidative stress.
Acai Reverses The Harmful Effect Of High Fat Diet
Given the beneficial effects of the phytochemicals contained in acai pulp and its strong anti-oxidant activity, demonstrated by previous studies, the investigators conjectured that acai should reverse the damaging effects of a high fat diet. In this model, researchers fed the flies two different types of diets.
One group of flies was fed a high saturated fat diet; this type of diet is known to decrease lifespan by 19% compared to a standard diet without addition of fat. Obviously, high fat diets are detrimental to flies as is the case for humans. The other group of flies was fed the same high fat diet supplemented at 2% with acai pulp.
Interestingly, the acai-supplemented group presented a 22% increase in lifespan, compared to the flies fed the non-supplemented high fat diet. Essentially, the acai-supplemented high fat diet completely restored the normal lifespan that had been compromised by the high fat diet. When the researchers sought to identify the molecular mechanism of the prolongevity effect of acai, they found that the acai diet increased the activity of certain genes known as anti-aging genes.
High fat diets are associated with an increased risk for a plethora of diseases. It is known that chronic high fat diets increase the risk for insulin resistance and eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. “Our findings suggest that acai pulp may be effective in prevention and control of type 2 diabetes” explained Dr Sun, lead author of the study. This study shows that acai pulp can antagonize the detrimental effects of high fat diets as a medicinal food.
Acai Rescues From Oxidative Damage
The researchers postulated that acai pulp would improve survival of flies that are in a state of oxidative stress. To test this, they used a model of oxidative stress that is used in the biology of aging. This model uses flies that have been genetically modified (mutated) so that they have a dysfunctional Superoxide Dismutase enzyme (SOD). SOD is an enzyme that repairs cells and reduces the damage done to them by harmful free radicals in the body. SOD-mutated flies are unable to repair oxidative damage and therefore live under constant oxidative stress. The investigators fed SOD-mutated flies 2% acai pulp for their adult life time. They found that acai pulp increased the mean lifespan of these flies by approximately 18% compared to the non-supplemented control. This finding shows that acai improves survival by alleviating oxidative stress.
The authors suggested that the anti-aging properties of acai are due to its high concentration of polyphenolics that make it function as a scavenger of harmful free radicals. It is noteworthy that the effect of acai supplementation in flies resembles that of supplementation with resveratrol in mice. A polyphenolic compound with anti-aging effects, resveratrol, has been shown to induce longevity in mice fed a high fat diet .
More than 20 studies on peer-reviewed journals mention the antioxidant effects of acai berry and its potential health benefits. This is the first study to test the anti-aging properties of acai in animals. While studies on the weight loss effect of acai berry are still ongoing, anecdotal and real-life experience shows the overall health benefits of this popular berry may help shed extra pounds as well. There is no doubt that berries and other fruits should be an important element of any healthy diet promoting weight loss.
Although clinical studies on the weight loss effect of acai are still pending, one cannot overlook the fact that its demand has gone well beyond that of Medifast savings codes. Overall, Acai berry, this indigenous to the Amazon fruit, can be viewed as a superfood with the potential to promote human health and disease prevention.
Bagchi D. et al. Anti-angiogenic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties of a novel anthocyanin-rich berry extract formula. Biochemistry (Mosc). 2004 Jan;69(1):75-80.
Sun X. et al. Aзai palm fruit (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp improves survival of flies on a high fat diet. Experimental Gerontology 45 (2010) 243–251.
Pearson, K.J., 2008. Resveratrol delays age-related deterioration and mimics transcriptional aspects of dietary restriction without extending life span. Cell Metab. 8, 157–168.