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Acai - Highest Antioxidant Activity of Any Food

  [ 6 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • April 20, 2009

Acai (ah-sigh-ee) is the small, intensely purple fruit of the Euterpe oleracea palm – long prized as food and tonic by Amazonian rainforest dwellers, and now by the wider world. Acai berries owe their rich color and unequaled antioxidant powers to a potent mix of anthocyanins – the pigmenting compounds that color fruits and vegetables.

According to a USDA-sponsored study reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,* “Tissue damage can be caused by a process known as oxidation. [In oxidation, unstable molecules containing an unpaired electron build up and ‘steal’ electrons from molecules in cellular membranes, setting off a chain reaction that weakens cells the way rust attacks metal. These ‘reactive oxygen species’ (ROS) include superoxide, peroxynitrite, nitric oxide, and the hydroxyl radical – most damaging of all.] Compounds known as antioxidants are thought to help prevent tissue damage, and thus reduce disease states caused by oxidation…

In this study, the antioxidant capacities of freeze-dried acai fruit were evaluated and it was found to have the highest antioxidant activity of any food reported to date. These results suggest that this fruit would be an excellent food to study for potential disease prevention effects in the future.

The fruit of Euterpe oleraceae, commonly known as acai, has been demonstrated to exhibit significantly high antioxidant capacity in vitro, especially for superoxide and peroxyl scavenging, and therefore may have possible health benefits. In this study, the antioxidant capacities of freeze-dried acai fruit pulp/skin powder… were evaluated by different assays with various free radical sources.

It was found to have:

• Exceptional activity against superoxide in the superoxide scavenging (SOD) assay, the highest of any food reported to date against the peroxyl radical as measured by the oxygen radical absorbance capacity assay with fluorescein as the fluorescent probe (ORACfl);

• And mild activity against both the peroxynitrite and hydroxyl radical by the peroxynitrite averting capacity (NORAC) and hydroxyl radical averting capacity (HORAC) assays, respectively.

The superoxide scavenging (SOD) of acai was 1614 units per gram, an extremely high scavenging capacity for superoxide, by far the highest of any fruit or vegetable tested to date. [About 1670 units is considered the amount an average person needs daily to avoid oxidative stress.]

Total phenolics were also tested as comparison: In the total antioxidant (TAO) assay, antioxidants in acai were differentiated into “slow-acting” and “fast-acting” components. [Fast-acting antioxidants inhibit propagation of free radicals, while slow acting antioxidants scavenge free radicals.]

An assay measuring inhibition of reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation in freshly purified human neutrophils [white blood cells] showed that antioxidants in acai are able to enter human cells in a fully functional form and to perform an oxygen quenching function at very low doses.

Furthermore, other bioactivities related to anti-inflammation and immune functions were also investigated.

• Acai was found to be a potential cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 and COX-2 inhibitor. [COX-1 and 2 are pro-inflammation enzymes.]

• It also showed a weak effect on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced nitric oxide [ROS produced by pathogenic bacteria] - but no effect on lymphocyte [immune cell] proliferation and phagocytic [pathogen-consuming] capacity.
* Source: “Antioxidant capacity and other bioactivities of the freeze-dried Amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae Mart. (Acai),” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Nov 2006, Schauss AG, et al. (A product of the USDA-sponsored research project “Dietary Factors Early in Human Development: Health Consequences of Phytochemical Intake.”)

Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is generic and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.

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