Acai shows heart health benefits: Pilot study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The study's findings are 'positive'
The study's findings are 'positive'
Acai-rich smoothies may reduce cholesterol levels and improve metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight subjects, suggest preliminary findings from a pilot study.

Daily intake of the açai pulp in the form of a smoothie was associated with a reduction in levels of blood sugar and total cholesterol of 5.3 and 10.6 percent, respectively, according to findings published in the Nutrition Journal​.

“These reductions are greater than those deemed necessary for a change in risk status [for developing diabetes],”​ wrote the researchers, led by Jay Udani, MD, CEO of Medicus Research.

The study used a commercial açai puree provided by California-based Sambazon Inc. According to the study, the product is pasteurized and manufactured in a GMP facility in Brazil. Sambazon funded the study.

Caution

“This was an open label, uncontrolled, pilot study designed to explore the potential effects of Sambazon Açai on risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease,”​ explained Dr Udani and his team.

“The limitations of this study are a lack of a blinding, a placebo control and the small sample population. This was an exploratory study, and as the results are positive, further studies placebo-controlled studies with a larger study population are warranted.”

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.

This is not the first time açai has been reported to offer potential heart health benefits. Only recently a study supported by açai producer and distributor MonaVie LLC found that the berry’s juice may provide anti-inflammatory benefits that offer protection from hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

The research, published in Atherosclerosis​ (doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2011.02.035​), also supports the possibility that açaí juice may exert protective effects against the development of atherosclerosis by inhibiting pro-inflammatory compounds called cytokines, through regulating inflammatory mediators.

The new study sought to evaluate the potential of açai fruit pulp in overweight subjects.

In an email to NutraIngredients-USA.com, Dr Udani explained that the proprietary acai puree (Sambazon) contained 6.4g of fatty acids per dose, 4.5mg/ml phenolics, and 5.3g fiber.

"It appears that this high fiber, high fatty acid blend with phenolics is one of the reasons that this mixture was effective,"​ he said.

Study details

Dr Udani and his co-workers recruited 10 overweight subjects and provided them with a daily dose of 200 grams of açai pulp. One month later, the researchers analyzed risk factors of metabolic syndrome, including cholesterol levels, insulin and glucose levels, and blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterised by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Results showed that, compared to levels at the start of the study, açai ingestion was associated with significant reductions in glucose, insulin, and total cholesterol levels. CRP levels were unaffected, they added.

“In this uncontrolled pilot study, consumption of acai fruit pulp reduced levels of selected markers of metabolic disease risk in overweight adults, indicating that further studies are warranted,”​ concluded the researchers.

Dr Udani confirmed that further studies are in development, but not yet underway.

Source:Nutrition Journal
2011, 10​:45, doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-45
“Effects of Acai (​Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: A pilot study”
Authors: J.K. Udani, B.B. Singh, V.J. Singh, M.L. Barrett

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