Consumption of acai may improve cardiovascular health

Acai fruit, high in flavonoids, is marketed as being beneficial for health. A study by scientists from the University of Reading (UK) has investigated the effect of consumption on improvements in vascular function. The team hypothesised that “the consumption of acai, together with a high fat breakfast intervention, would ameliorate the detrimental vascular response to that high-fat intervention and induce improvements in other cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk markers in an acute setting.”

The study by Commane et al. published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, recruited 23 slightly overweight, healthy men aged between 30 and 65 and assigned them to consume a high fat breakfast (50 g fat) with smoothies made with or without acai. The 200g serving of the acai smoothie provided 179.3 mg total carotenoids, 493 mg total anthocyanins, and 694 mg total analysed phenols. The polyphenol content of the control smoothie was below the level of detection (<10 mg) and was matched to within 1% for energy and fibre and to within 10% for carbohydrate and to within 20% for total fat.

Blood samples were taken at regular intervals for seven hours and analysed for total oxidant capacity. Vascular measurements were performed at 2, 3, and 6 hours after the meal and urine samples were collected at baseline and during the study. Participants were provided with a standard moderate fat meal for lunch and a low polyphenol evening meal at the end of the session to ensure that phenolics recovered from the 24-hour urine samples were from acai. 

Commane et al. report that the consumption of the acai smoothie resulted in a 1.4% increase in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a measure of vascular health compared to the control smoothie. The researchers note that a 1% improvement in FMD is associated with a 13% reduction in risk of a cardiovascular event. The team note that other plant polyphenol rich foods including berries, dark chocolate and pomegranate juice showed similar changes in vascular function.

The team discuss the mechanisms for this improvement, stating that whilst it is unclear as to why phenolics improve endothelial function it could be related to their antioxidant activity. They state that NAD(P)H activity (membrane-associated enzyme that catalyses the production of superoxide– a reactive free radical) may be reduced by phenolics. 

The study concludes by stating “the findings of this double-blind, randomised crossover study are therefore timely and important and suggest that consumption of acai as part of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle may improve cardiovascular health which strongly supports argument for the health benefits of acai consumption.”



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