Acai boosts vascular function, improves heart health: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock / cocogelado
© iStock / cocogelado

Related tags Nutrition Better functional beverage beverage

Adding acai pulp to your smoothies may improve vascular function, and support heart health, says a new study.

Consuming an açai-based smoothie together with a high-fat breakfast led to a 1.4% improvement in flow-mediated dilatation (FMD - a measure of blood flow and vascular health), compared to a placebo smoothie.

A 1% improvement in FMD has been reported to reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event by 13%, wrote researchers from the University of Reading (UK) in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“To our knowledge, this trial is the first well-controlled acute intervention study in humans that shows actual benefits from consumption of acai with the use of a well-validated biomarker of CVD risk as an endpoint,” ​they wrote.

“The findings of this double-blind, randomized crossover study are therefore timely and important and suggest that consumption of acai as part of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle may improve cardiovascular health, which strongly supports arguments for the health benefits of acai consumption.”


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.

Study details

The researchers recruited 23 healthy men aged between 30 and 65 to participate in their acute dietary intervention trial. The men were randomly assigned to consume a high fat breakfast with smoothies made with or without acai (Euterpe oleracea​).

Results showed that acute consumption of the acai smoothie (containing 694 mg total phenolics) was associated with a 1.4% increase in FMD two hours later, compared with a 0.4% increase following consumption of the control smoothie.

Six hours after consumption, the FMD improvements following acai consumption were 0.8%, compared with a decline in FMD of 0.3% in the control group.

“In this acute study in overweight men, açai consumption was associated with improvements in vascular function, which may lower the risk of a cardiovascular event. Future intervention studies, perhaps with a chronic design, in wider populations and with other biomarkers of disease risk are needed to fully elucidate the benefits of açai to health,” ​wrote the researchers.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.128728
“Consumption of a flavonoid-rich açai meal is associated with acute improvements in vascular function and a reduction in total oxidative status in healthy overweight men”
Authors: R.M. Alqurashi, et al. 

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