Data published in Clinical Nutrition indicated that the addition of 200 grams per day of açai pulp to the habitual diet decreased levels of malondialdehyde (MDA, a marker of oxidative stress) by 68%, while levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL, an independent risk factor of cardiovascular disease) decreased by 61%.
In addition, the total antioxidant capacity measured in the 40 female participants of the four week study increased by 18%.
“Therefore, açai could be a functional food that may protect the human body against atherogenesis and other degenerative diseases related to oxidative stress and dysfunctional lipid metabolism,” wrote scientists from the University of Ouro Preto and the University of São Paulo.
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, the berries have been shown to have powerful antioxidant properties thanks to a high level of anthocyanins.
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.
“Further support for the overall benefits of acai pulp in humans”
Commenting on the new study’s findings, Dr Alex Schauss, Senior Director of Research and CEO of AIBMR Life Sciences and a renowned açai researcher, told NutraIngredients-USA: “This study provides further support for the overall benefits of the functional properties of acai pulp in humans, supported by 20 years of in vitro and in vivo investigations on its bioactivities and mechanisms of action.
“It confirms our early observations, as reported in Atherosclerosis (2011; 216: 327-333), of the athero-protective properties of acai pulp through inhibition of the formation of atherosclerotic lesions combined with a significant reduction of inflammatory agents and increase in antioxidant bioactivity when added to the diet, even in animals fed a high-fat diet.
“The authors of this new study confirm for the first time in humans that reducing lipid peroxidation by boosting antioxidant enzymes and inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokine production through incorporation of acai pulp into the diet as the major underlying mechanisms to understand its athero-protective properties.
“Their findings suggest that acai pulp should have important protections against neurodegenerative processes associated with aging, as many of the same mechanisms of action that provide protection against atherosclerosis are known to be involved when studying what is going on in the brain that places humans at risk of deteriorating brain function, as we have confirmed in a series of recent studies in animals,” said Dr Schauss, who is also a researcher in the College of Science at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
The Brazilian researchers added 200 grams of açai pulp to the diets of 40 healthy women for 4 weeks.
Results showed that, while no significant changes occurred in the classical plasma lipid profiles, including triglycerides, LDL and HDL-cholesterol, significant improvements were observed in levels of apolipoprotein A1 (apo A-I ), the main apolipoprotein of HDL cholesterol.
“Most of the apo A-I in the plasma is found in the HDL fraction, and thus the concentration of this apo is considered a marker of HDL content, just as apo B is for LDL,” explained the researchers. “The fact that apo A-I is increased by açai suggests an increase in the HDL fraction and presumably in the functional aspects, despite the finding that the HDL-cholesterol remained unchanged.”
Levels of reactive oxygen species, ox-LDL, and MDA were also reported, while activity of the enzyme antioxidative paraoxonase 1 (PON 1) increased by 28%. “PON 1, [is] an HDL-associated enzyme that has the ability to inhibit ox-LDL generation and to reduce the products of lipid oxidation, such as MDA,” explained the researchers.
“Our data indicate that açai has favorable actions on plasma HDL metabolism and anti-oxidant defense; therefore açai could have a beneficial overall role against atherosclerosis, and it is a consistently good candidate to consider as a functional food,” they concluded.
Source: Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2017.02.001
“Açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) dietary intake affects plasma lipids, apolipoproteins, cholesteryl ester transfer to high-density lipoprotein and redox metabolism: a prospective study in women”
Authors: D. Pala et al.