- Acai berry
- Acai palm
- Cabbage palm
- Palm berry
For Patients & Caregivers
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.
For Healthcare Professionals
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).
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).