Acai-rich juice may reverse inflammation

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Antioxidant functional beverage beverage

An antioxidant-rich juice containing açai may reduce levels of markers of inflammation linked to conditions such as heart disease, says a new study.

Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry​, researchers report that the antioxidant-rich juice was able to protect cells from oxidative damage, and, when consumed by a small number of volunteers, showed anti-inflammatory properties.

“Antioxidant consumption, along with anti-inflammatory treatment, is being critically evaluated as a potential strategy for reversal of disease progression,”​ wrote lead author Gitte Jensen from Holger NIS Inc., a contract research laboratory.

“Given the high content of certain specific polyphenols in the juice blend, the increased antioxidant protection in vivo after consumption of the juice blend, and the anti-inflammatory capacity in vitro, further research is warranted to evaluate whether juice blend consumption may provide reversal of risk markers in subjects with conditions such as arthritis, obesity, chronic viral diseases, cardiovascular disease, and compromised cognitive function as well as other conditions associated with chronic inflammation.”

Açai berries (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) have long formed part of the staple diet of Indian tribes. With the appearance of a purple grape and taste of a tropical berry, it has been shown to have powerful antioxidant properties thanks to a high level of anthocyanins, pigments that are also present in red wine.

It is presently being sold in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, South America, Japan, USA, and the Middle East

Study details

The researchers used the cell-based antioxidant protection of erythrocytes (CAP-e) assay to assess the commercially available MonaVie Active juice blend’s antioxidant activity in vitro​.

The juice was found to possess a dose-dependent antioxidant activity, and protected cells were protected against oxidative damage. This indicated that the “compounds in the juice blend are able to cross the plasma membrane of living cells and, subsequently, are able to provide significant protection from oxidative damage within the cells,”​ said the researchers.

Comparing ORAC antioxidant activity values, the researchers report an ORAC value of 22.8 micromoles of Trolox equivalents per millilitre, which is higher than the ORAC values of most common juices, they said

The main antioxidants in the juice were primarily anthocyanins, they added, and predominantly cyanidin 3-rutoside, cyanidin 3-diglycoside, and cyanidin 3-glucoside.

Small clinical trial

Jensen and co-workers then recruited 12 healthy subjects (average age 33.9, average BMI 26.3 kg per sq. m, six women) to participate in a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.

Blood samples taken before juice consumption, and again after consumption, showed significant increases in blood antioxidant levels after two hours. The researchers also noted a significant inhibition of lipid peroxidation - a marker of oxidative stress - in the volunteers.

The researchers stated that the antioxidant profile of the juice as key to the apparent benefits. In addition to açai, the juice also contained white and purple grape, Nashi pear, acerola, aronia, cranberry, passion fruit, apricot, prune, kiwifruit, blueberry, wolfberry, pomegranate, lychee, camu camu, pear, banana, and bilberry.

“It has been suggested that the apparent failure of multiple larger clinical trials to document reversal of disease processes may be linked to the choice of antioxidants,” ​they stated.

“In particular, the frequent use of vitamins C and E in such studies may be due to availability and low cost, but may not have been the best choice, as both vitamins have pro-oxidant capacity as well.

“In contrast, studies on polyphenols may be much more promising, and may be more relevant, as these types of antioxidants are the most abundant in a health-conscious diet.”

If the study can be repeated in other human studies with larger numbers of participants, the juice could offers promise for preventing chronic inflammation, brought about by an over-expression or lack of control of the normal protective mechanism. Chronic inflammation has been linked to range of conditions linked to heart disease, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, type-2 diabetes, and arthritis.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry​Published online ahead of print, ASAP Article​, doi: 10.1021/jf8016157“In Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Capacities of an Antioxidant-Rich Fruit and Berry Juice Blend. Results of a Pilot and Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study”​Authors: G.S. Jensen, X. Wu, K.M. Patterson, J. Barnes, S.G. Carter, L. Scherwitz, R. Beaman, J.R. Endres, A.G. Schauss

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