Acai Berry

Acai Berry

Common Names

  • Acai berry
  • Acai palm
  • Cabbage palm
  • Palm berry

For Patients & Caregivers

How It Works

Acai has antioxidant effects but it has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.

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, human stuides 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.

Purported Uses
  • 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 are lacking.
Special Point

Theoretically, Acai may interfere with the actions of certain chemotherapy drugs due to its antioxidant effects.

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For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name
Euterpe oleraceae
Clinical Summary

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.

Preclinical experiments have shown that acai has anti-inflammatory (11), antioxidant (10), pro-apoptotic (2) (17), antitumorigenic (18), athero-protective (13) and anticancer (21) effects. An acai extract inhibited beta-amyloid inhibition, which suggests it may also have neuroprotective activity (19). In a murine model nasal administration of acai polysaccharides potentiated innate immunity against pulmonary infections (16); and oral administration of acai extracts prevented the development of exercise intolerance, cardiac hypertrophy and dysfunction in rats with myocardial infarction (20).

Small clinical studies reported improvements in biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in individuals with metabolic syndrome (22); and in vascular function in overweight men (23). Consumption of an acai juice product was shown to lengthen prostate specific antigen (PSA) doubling time in patients with recurrent prostate cancer (24). These observations need confirmation in larger studies.

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).

Purported Uses
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
Mechanism of Action

Acai fruit has been shown to have antioxidant effects in vitro (5) (6) by scavenging reactive oxygen species (7). It also protects human vascular endothelial cells against oxidative stress and inflammation, downregulate IL-6 and -8 expression at mRNA and protein levels, and inhibits 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). In a diabetic murine model, an acai seed extract was shown to protect against hepatic steatosis by reducing hepatic lipogenesis and increasing antioxidant defense and cholesterol excretion (25).

Additional studies indicate that Acai induces apoptosis in HL-60 leukemia cells through caspase 3 activation (2). The cytotoxic effects of acai extracts on various malignant cell lines were reported to be due to increased expression of LC3BII, a protein marker of auto-phagosome formation (18).

Herb-Drug Interactions

Theoretically, Acai may interfere with the actions of certain chemotherapy drugs due to its antioxidant effects.

Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Wang H, Cao G, Prior RL. Total Antioxidant Capacity of Fruits. J Agric Food Chem 1996;44(3):701-705.
  4. Plotkin MJ, Balick MJ. Medicinal uses of South American palms. J Ethnopharmacol 1984;10(2):157-79.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Alessandra-Perini J, Rodrigues-Baptista KC, Machado DE, Nasciutti LE, Perini JA. Anticancer potential, molecular mechanisms and toxicity of Euterpe oleracea extract (açaí): A systematic review. PLoS One. 2018 Jul 2;13(7):e0200101.
  22. Kim H, Simbo SY, Fang C, et al. Açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) beverage consumption improves biomarkers for inflammation but not glucose- or lipid-metabolism in individuals with metabolic syndrome in a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Food Funct. 2018 Jun 20;9(6):3097-3103.
  23. Alqurashi RM, Galante LA, Rowland IR, Spencer JP, Commane DM. 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.Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Nov;104(5):1227-1235.
  24. Kessler ER, Su LJ, Gao D, et al. Phase II Trial of Acai Juice Product in Biochemically Recurrent Prostate Cancer. Integr Cancer Ther. 2018 Oct 5:1534735418803755.
  25. de Bem GF, da Costa CA, da Silva Cristino Cordeiro V, et al. Euterpe oleracea Mart. (açaí) seed extract associated with exercise training reduces hepatic steatosis in type 2 diabetic male rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Feb;52:70-81.
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