The potential heart health benefits of acai and its extracts may be linked to the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of a compound called velutin, new research suggests.
Results of a cell study indicated that velutin displayed even stronger anti-inflammatory effects than known anti-inflammatory flavonoids like luteolin and apigenin, according to findings published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
The study is the first time that the potent anti-inflammatory properties of the compound have been reported, said scientists from the USDA, the University of Arkansas, Shanghai Institute of Pharmaceutical Industry, and AIBMR Life Science Inc.
Super fruits from Central and South America
Açai berries (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) have long formed part of the staple diet of Indian tribes. With the appearance of a purple grape and taste of a tropical berry, it has been shown to have powerful antioxidant properties thanks to a high level of anthocyanins, pigments that are also present in red wine.
It is presently being sold in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, South America, Japan, USA, and the Middle East
Dr Alex Schauss, from AIBMR Life Sciences and co-author of the study, told NutraIngredients-USA that the study’s findings were significant because they help us “to understand in part why acai pulp when fed to ApoE-/+ mice caused such significant inhibition of atherosclerotic lesions in the paper we published earlier this year in Atherosclerosis”.
“The finding is also of importance in offering us an understanding of how this low molecular weight compound could, along with other flavones found in acai exhibit strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant inhibitory properties in the brain that has a bearing on the progression of neurodegenerative diseases,” added Dr Schauss.
The researchers isolated velutin from acai fruit pulp and examined its effects in cell studies. Cells called macrophages were exposed to a compound called lipopolysaccharide to induce the cells to produce inflammatory compounds tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) in the presence or absence of velutin, and compared with other flavones with similar chemical structures (luteolin, apigenin and chrysoeriol).
According to Dr Schauss, it took nearly two years to progress from initial characterization of the structure of velutin to the production of enough velutin to carry out studies.
Velutin was found to be the most potent for reducing the production of both TNF-alpha and IL-6, performing even better than the other flavones tested.
“The present study led to the discovery of a strong anti-inflammatory flavone, velutin,” wrote the researchers.
Source: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2011.06.013
“The acai flavonoid velutin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent: blockade of LPS-mediated TNF-alpha and IL-6 production through inhibiting NF-kappaB activation and MAPK pathway”
Authors: C. Xie, J. Kang, Z. Li, A.G. Schauss, T.M. Badger, S. Nagarajan, T. Wu, X. Wu