Extracts from the seeds of acai berries (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) may protect hearts against exercise intolerance and dysfunction, says new data from a study with rats that adds to the heart health benefits of the fruit.
Supplementing the diets of rats subjected to myocardial infarction (MI) reversed many of the deleterious effects of the MI, report researchers in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine .
A running exercise with rats subjected to MI showed an average total distance of 178 meters. Acai seed extracts were associated with a significant increase in this total distance to 970 meters, reported researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. This compared favorably with lab animals that were not subjected to MI (1339 meters).
The acai seed extracts were also associated with improvements in systolic blood pressure, which was negatively affected following myocardial infarction, said the researchers.
“E. oleracea for 4 weeks prevented the development of exercise intolerance, cardiac hypertrophy, fibrosis, and dysfunction in MI rats,” wrote the researchers. “These beneficial effects might be related to the antioxidant, vasodilator, and anti-inflammatory properties of its seed extract.”
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 and regions, including New Zealand, Australia, South America, Japan, USA, and the Middle East.
Açai pulp has been demonstrated to affect cell signaling, enzyme activity, maintenance of the oxidant and antioxidant balance, receptor sensitivity, gene regulation, and reduction in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, while restoring or maintaining functional cellular antioxidant status.
Growing evidence for heart health
Dr Alex Schauss, Senior Research Director and CEO, Natural and Medicinal Products Research, AIBMR Life Sciences, Inc. and a leading researcher into açai, explained that the new study reports on growing evidence of acai pulp's potential beneficial effects on supporting cardiovascular health in vivo.
“In 2009, Oliveira de Souza and colleagues reported that 2% acai pulp added to a hypercholesterolemic diet improved antioxidant status and had a hypocholesterolemic effect in an animal model of dietary-induced hypercholesterolemia,” he explained.
“A probable mechanism was reported by Chenghui Xie et al in 2012 in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry which discovered that a class of flavones in the pulp, including the potent dual antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavone, velutin, inhibited the expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-6 in low micromole levels by inhibiting NF-kappa-B activation and p38 and JNK phosphorylation.
“Xie and colleague's study was prompted by the results of two earlier USDA studies performed in apolipoprotein E deficient mice which demonstrated that by adding 5% freeze-dried acai to a high-fat diet there was a 58% reduction in the formation of atherosclerotic lesions, compared to controls, published in 2011 in the journal, Atherosclerosis,” added Dr Schauss.
Source: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
2014, 14:227, doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-227
“Oral treatment with Euterpe oleracea Mart. (açaí) extract improves cardiac dysfunction and exercise intolerance in rats subjected to myocardial infarction”
Authors: G. Zapata-Sudo, J.S. da Silva, S.L. Pereira