Acai is the fruit of a palm tree native to South America. It is consumed as food and used in traditional medicine. The pulp and skin of acai fruit are rich in anthocyanins (ACNs), proanthocyanidins (PACs), and other fatty acids (1). It is marketed as a dietary supplement for lowering cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, allergies, and for cancer treatment.
In vitro and in vivo studies have shown that acai has anti-inflammatory (11), antioxidant (10), pro-apoptotic (2) (17), antitumorigenic (18), and athero-protective (13) effects. An acai extract inhibited beta-amyloid inhibition, which suggests it may also have neuroprotective activity (19).
Further, nasal acai polysaccharides were found to potentiate innate immunity against pulmonary infections in mice (16); and oral administration of acai extracts prevented the development of exercise intolerance, cardiac hypertrophy and dysfunction in rats with myocardial infarction (20).
Due to its antioxidant effects, acai may interfere with the actions of certain chemotherapy drugs.
Consumption of contaminated acai fruit with insects carrying Trypanosoma cruzii, a protozoan that causes Chagas disease, resulted in 178 cases of acute disease (12).