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Acai (Euterpe oleraceaeis)

Acai berry fruit comes from acai palm, which is a species present in the genus Euterpe and is usually cultivated for its palms and fruits. Its scientific name is Euterpe oleracea. The name acai palm is derived from the Brazilian Portuguese of the Tupian word wacai, which means the fruit that expels water or cries. The demand of this fruit worldwide has increased during the recent years and its cultivation has increased significantly.

Acai (Euterpe oleraceaeis)


It is marketed as a dietary supplement to lower cholesterol, support heart health, and primarily for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.


The pulp and skin of acai fruit are rich in anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and fatty acids. Unlike other fruits, acai berries are relatively high in fat and low in sugar. Acai berries are also dense with trace minerals and plant compounds, one of which, anthocyanin, gives the fruit its distinct deep purple color.

Clinical Studies

Preclinical experiments suggest acai has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, proapoptotic, antitumorigenic, atheroprotective, and anticancer effects. An acai extract inhibited beta-amyloid inhibition, which suggests it may also have neuroprotective activity. In a murine model, nasal administration of acai polysaccharides potentiated innate immunity against pulmonary infections. Other animal studies suggest oral acai extract may help prevent exercise intolerance, cardiac hypertrophy, and dysfunction in rats with myocardial infarction. Studies in humans are limited, however, some suggest improvements in biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in individuals with metabolic syndrome, and vascular function in overweight men. Other preliminary data suggest an acai juice product may lengthen prostate-specific antigen (PSA) doubling time in patients with recurrent prostate cancer.

Biomechanical Mechanism

Antioxidant properties of acai have been related to scavenging reactive oxygen species. It also protected human vascular endothelial cells against oxidative stress and inflammation, downregulated IL-6 and -8 expression at mRNA and protein levels, and inhibited gene expression of adhesion molecules and NF-κB activation. Anti-inflammatory effects may occur via NO or COX inhibition. In a diabetic murine model, an acai seed extract protected against hepatic steatosis by reducing hepatic lipogenesis and increasing antioxidant defense and cholesterol excretion. Apoptosis in HL-60 leukemia cells with acai may occur through caspase 3 activation. Cytotoxic effects on various malignant cell lines were attributed to increased expression of LC3BII, a protein marker of auto-phagosome formation.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Kessler ER, Su LJ, Gao D, et al. Phase II Trial of Acai Juice Product in Biochemically Recurrent Prostate Cancer. Integr Cancer Ther. 2018 Dec;17(4):1103-1108.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Plotkin MJ, Balick MJ. Medicinal uses of South American palms. J Ethnopharmacol 1984;10(2):157-79.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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