Human data supports acai’s antioxidant activity in healthy women

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Image © iStockPhoto cocogelado
Image © iStockPhoto cocogelado

Related tags Antioxidant functional beverage beverage

Supplementing the diet of healthy women with açai pulp may boost the activity of antioxidant enzymes, and reduce the production of reactive oxygen species, Brazilian researchers report.

Data published in Nutrition​indicated that the addition of 200 grams per day of açai pulp to the habitual diet increased the activity of catalase enzymes, one of the main enzymes involved in the cellular antioxidative system, by over 4,000%.

The total antioxidant capacity of the women’s blood also increased by 104%, reported the researchers from the Federal University of Ouro Preto.

“Our results indicate that dietary açai intake modulates the antioxidant/prooxidant status of healthy women,” ​they wrote. “The antioxidant effects of açai may stem from the neutralization of free radicals, preventing their attack on other molecules, and/or from the modulation of enzymes involved in oxidative stress. These results pave the way for better understanding the effects of the daily dietary intake of açai in humans.”


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.

Açai pulp has been demonstrated to affect cell signaling, enzyme activity, maintenance of the oxidant and antioxidant balance, receptor sensitivity, gene regulation, and reduction in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, while restoring or maintaining functional cellular antioxidant status.

Commenting on the study’s findings, Dr Alex Schauss, Senior Director of Research and CEO of AIBMR Life Sciences and a renowned acai researcher, told NutraIngredients-USA: “After engaging in scores of in vitro and in vivo studies for the last 21 years with numerous collaborators, I'm pleased to finally see a well-designed prospective nutritional intervention study reported on the consumption of acai pulp performed in a healthy adult population.”

Study details

Image © iStockPhoto

The researchers recruited 35 healthy women and assigned all to 200g/day of açai pulp for four weeks.

Blood samples collected at the start and end of the intervention period indicated significant increases in catalase activity and total antioxidant capacity, but no significant changes in superoxide dismutase (SOD) or glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activities.

No significant changes in any anthropometric, clinical and biochemical characteristics were observed. These included measures such as body weight, BMI, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and insulin.

The researchers did note reductions in the concentration of protein carbonyl, which is a marker of protein oxidative damage, and an increase in the concentration of sulfhydryl groups, which are an marker of antioxidant capacity.

“These results show the antioxidant benefit of dietary açai for the healthy women included in the present study, and may increase the understanding of the health-promoting properties of this fruit,”​ they wrote.

“Future studies will be needed to determine how much of this potential "functional food" is necessary to maintain health and prevent chronic diseases,” ​they concluded.

Funding of the study was provided by three government agencies, including the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, as well as the Federal University of Ouro Preto.

Source: Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2015.12.030
“Açai (​Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp dietary intake improves cellular antioxidant enzymes and biomarkers of serum in healthy women”
Authors: P. Oliveira Barbosa, et al. 

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