Health Benefits Of The Acai Palm
The acai palm is found most commonly in Brazil, but is native to a number of Central and South American countries. Acai berries are harvested and widely consumed in Brazil in various preparations including in ice cream, mixed with granola, in smoothies, cold in a bowl or in the traditional gourds called cuias with tapioca.
The dietary supplements come in the form of powders, tablets, juice, smoothies and even some whole fruit. Various companies have promoted acai preparations as aid for everything from improved heart health to penile enlargement. Companies like MonaVie in a sophisticated multi-level marketing construct, promotes an acai juice preparation for various health ailments.
To date, there are no scientific peer reviewed, controlled studies that support any of the particular claims of health benefit. But before we throw the baby out with the bath water let’s look at what is in the acai fruit. Like other dark berries, acai fruit contains a mixture of antioxidants including chemicals called flavonoids and a small amount of anthocyanins. A tiny amount of the red wine chemical resveratrol is also found within acai. In studies, the acai fruit and preparations thereof turn out to be fairly average in terms of their antioxidant power with a variety of other fruits scoring a bit better and exhibiting higher antioxidant capacity.
Like a lot of people who follow the science of nutrition and enjoy reading some of the anti-aging potential of wonderful things like dark berries, red wine and chocolate, the truth is that very little evidence exists that would support any claim of significant health effects of these foods of these compounds. It is more like indirect evidence and profoundly hopeful thinking of lovers of red wine, chocolates and dark fruits (like myself!) that these compounds and foods will prove to be as helpful as some laboratory evidence suggests that they could be. To date, keep in mind the studies have not demonstrated any convincing benefit and we’re a long way from knowing what sort of doses, concentrations and specific compounds might provide the answers to solving the mysteries of atherosclerotic disease, heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
In a February 2008 study by Seeram, N.P. in The Journal of Agriculture Food Chemistry; volume 56, page 1415-1422, three available juice mixes of the acai juice were compared with respect to their antioxidant capacity and some number of other antioxidant beverages. Acai juice ranked below pomegranate juice, grape juice, blueberry juice and red wine and was roughly equivalent to black cherry and cranberry juice.
I am certainly not condemning the acai palm, its fruit or the preparations there-of, I just am helping to keep it all in context. By all means, enjoy them along with other healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains.