Health Care Professional Information
Acai berry, acai palm, cabbage palm, palm berry
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 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).
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Flavonoids: Anthocyanins (ACNs), Proanthocyanidins (PACs)
- Fatty acids: Oleic acid, Palmitic acid, Linoleic acid
- Procyanidins, Protocatechuic acid, Epicatechin
Mechanism of Action
Acai fruit has been shown to have antioxidant effects in vitro (5) (6) by scavenging reactive oxygen species (7). It also protected human vascular endothelial cells against oxidative stress and inflammation, downregulate IL-6 and -8 expression at mRNA and protein levels, and inhibit gene expression of adhesion molecules and NF-κB activation (14). The anti-inflammatory effects of acai may be via inhibition of nitric oxide production (8) or cyclooxygenase (COX) 1 and 2 (5).
Acai also induced apoptosis in HL-60 leukemia cells through caspase 3 activation, but its effects in humans are unknown (2). The cytotoxic effects of acai extracts on various malignant cell lines are exerted via increased expression of LC3BII, a protein marker of autophagosome formation (18).
In humans, anthocyanins from acai juice and pulp are absorbed after oral consumption. Plasma antioxidant capacity also increased (10).
Acai may interfere with the actions of certain chemotherapy drugs due to its antioxidant effects.
Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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- Schauss AG, Wu X, Prior L, et al. Phytochemical and nutrient composition of the freeze-dried amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae mart. (acai). J Agric Food Chem 2006;54(22): 8598-603.
- Del Pozo-Insfran D, Percival SS, Talcott ST. Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) polyphenolics in their glycoside and aglycone forms induce apoptosis of HL-60 leukemia cells. J Agric Food Chem 2006;54(4):1222-9.
- Wang H, Cao G, Prior RL. Total Antioxidant Capacity of Fruits. J Agric Food Chem 1996;44(3):701-705.
- Plotkin MJ, Balick MJ. Medicinal uses of South American palms. J Ethnopharmacol 1984;10(2):157-79.
- Schauss AG, Wu X, Prior RL, et al. Antioxidant capacity and other bioactivities of the freeze-dried Amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae mart. (acai). J Agric Food Chem 2006;54(22): 8604-10.
- Rodrigues RB, Lichtenthaler R,Zimmermann BF, et al. Total oxidant scavenging capacity of Euterpe oleracea Mart. (acai) seeds and identification of their polyphenolic compounds. J Agric Food Chem 2006; 54(12):4162-7.
- Hassimotto NM, Genovese MI, Lajolo FM. Antioxidant activity of dietary fruits, vegetables, and commercial frozen fruit pulps. J Agric Food Chem 2005;53(8):2928-35.
- Matheus ME, de Oliveira Fernandes SB, Silvera CS, et al. Inhibitory effects of Euterpe oleracea Mart. on nitric oxide production and iNOS expression. J Ethnopharmacol 2006;107(2):291-6.
- Pacheco-Palencia LA, Talcott ST. et al. Absorption and biological activity of phytochemical-rich extracts from açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp and oil in vitro. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 May 28;56(10):3593-600.
- Mertens-Talcott SU, Rios J, Jilma-Stohlawetz P, Pacheco-Palencia LA, et al. Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in human healthy volunteers. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep 10;56(17):7796-802.
- Jensen GS, Wu X, Patterson KM, Barnes J. et al. 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. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep 24;56(18):8326-33.
- Nóbrega AA, Garcia MH, Tatto E, et al. Oral transmission of Chagas disease by consumption of açaí palm fruit, Brazil. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009 Apr;15(4):653-5.
- Xie C, Kang J, Burris R, et al. Açaí juice attenuates atherosclerosis in ApoE deficient mice through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Atherosclerosis. 2011 Jun;216(2):327-33.
- Noratto GD, Angel-Morales G, Talcott ST, et al. Polyphenolics from açaí ( Euterpe oleracea Mart.) and red muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia ) protect human umbilical vascular Endothelial cells (HUVEC) from glucose- and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation and target microRNA-126. J Agric Food Chem. 2011;59(14):7999-8012.
- Moura RS, Ferreira TS, Lopes AA, et al. Effects of Euterpe oleracea Mart. (AÇAÍ) extract in acute lung inflammation induced by cigarette smoke in the mouse.Phytomedicine. 2012 Feb 15;19(3-4):262-9.
- Skyberg JA, Rollins MF, Holderness JS, et al. Nasal Acai polysaccharides potentiate innate immunity to protect against pulmonary Francisella tularensis and Burkholderia pseudomallei Infections. PLoS Pathog. 2012 Mar;8(3):e1002587.
- Dias MM, Noratto G, Martino HS, et al. Pro-apoptotic activities of polyphenolics from açai (Euterpe oleracea Martius) in human SW-480 colon cancer cells. Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(8):1394-405.
- Silva DF, Vidal FC, Santos D, Costa MC, et al. Cytotoxic effects of Euterpe oleracea Mart. in malignant cell lines. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 May 29;14:175.
- Wong DY, Musgrave IF, Harvey BS, Smid SD. Açaí (Euterpe oleraceae Mart.) berry extract exerts neuroprotective effects against β-amyloid exposure in vitro. Neurosci Lett. 2013 Nov 27;556:221-6.
- Zapata-Sudo G, da Silva JS, Pereira SL, Souza PJ, de Moura RS, Sudo RT. Oral treatment with Euterpe oleracea Mart. (açaí) extract improves cardiac dysfunction and exercise intolerance in rats subjected to myocardial infarction. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jul 8;14:227.
How It Works
BOTTOM LINE: Acai has antioxidant effects. It has not been proven to be effective for cancer in humans.
Acai is the fruit of a palm mainly found in South America. The berries and seeds contain compounds called flavonoids that have antioxidant effects. Some laboratory studies suggest acai may reduce cholesterol, prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels, and cause programmed cell death in leukemia cells. However, studies in humans are needed to confirm these effects.
Consumption of contaminated acai fruit with insects carrying Trypanosoma cruzii, a protozoan that causes Chagas disease, resulted in 178 cases of acute disease.
- To prevent cancer
In vitro studies show that flavonoids present in acai fruit have antioxidant properties. There are no animal or human studies to support that acai is useful in cancer prevention.
- To prevent heart disease and stroke
In vitro studies show that acai fruit may be useful but human data is lacking.
Do Not Take If
You are undergoing chemotherapy (Acai has antioxidant effects that may interfere with the actions of certain chemotherapy drugs).
Last updated: March 26, 2015