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Botanical Name: Euterpe oleracea
Species: E. oleracea
*Euterpe brasiliana Oken
*Catis martiana O.F.Cook
*Euterpe badiocarpa Barb.Rodr.
*Euterpe beardii L.H.Bailey
*Euterpe cuatrecasana Dugand
Parts Used: Fruits , roots and stems
Description:Euterpe are tall, slender, attractive palms growing to 15-30 meters, with pinnate leaves up to 3 meters long. Many of the palms that were once in the genus Euterpe have been reclassified into the genus Prestoea (Riffle, 2003). The species Euterpe oleracea is usually called Acai Palm, after the Portuguese derivation of the Tupi word Ã¯wasa’i, fruit that cries or expells water. The vernacular name is also sometimes spelled Assai Palm in English.
The fruit, a small, round, black-purple drupe about 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter, similar in appearance and size to a grape but with less pulp, is produced in branched panicles of 700 to 900 fruits. Two crops of fruit are produced per year. The fruit has a single large seed about 7 mm to 10 mm in diameter. The exocarp of the ripe fruits is a deep purple color, or green, depending on the kind of acai and its maturity. The mesocarp is pulpy and thin, with a consistent thickness of 1 mm or less. It surrounds the voluminous and hard endocarp which contains a seed with a diminutive embryo and abundant endosperm.The seed makes up about 80% of the fruit.
Harvesting and uses:
Heart of palm, the soft inner growing tip of some palms (Euterpe edulis, Euterpe oleracea, Bactris gasipaes), is often consumed in salads.
The berries are also harvested as food. In a study of three traditional Caboclo populations in the Amazon region of Brazil. Acai palm was described as the most important plant species because the fruit makes up such a major component of diet (up to 42% of the total food intake by weight) and is economically valuable in the region (Murrieta et al., 1999).
The juice and pulp of ruits (Euterpe oleracea) are frequently used in various juice blends, smoothies, sodas, and other beverages. In northern Brazil, is traditionally served in gourds called “cuias” with tapioca and sometimes sugar. It has become a fad in southern Brazil where it is consumed cold as na tigela , mostly mixed with granola – a fad where it is considered as an energizer. This is also widely consumed in Brazil as an ice cream flavor or juice.
As it deteriorates rapidly after harvest, its raw material is generally only available outside the immediate growing region as juice or fruit pulp that has been frozen, dried, or freeze-dried. However, several companies now manufacture juices, other health drinks, and sorbets made from acai berries, often in combination with other fruits.
Constituents:Fiber, calcium vitamins C, A and iron. Amio acids, aspartic acid and glutamic acid. EFA: oleic , palmitic, and linoleic acids. A high amount of beta-sitosterol, polyphenols.
The acai berry is loaded with antioxidants, anthocyanins (approximately 20 times the amount in red wine), amino acids, essential omegas, fibers and protein. Some recent studies from the University of Florida indicate that Acai may even fight cancer cells: “Brazilian berry destroys cancer cells in lab, UF study shows.
Medicinal Uses: In traditional medical practices, fruit and roots have been used for treating gastrointestinal problems and sap as an astringent. The seeds are a source of polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids.
Acai Roots is a delicious ready to eat acai pulp with a little touch of guarana. Formulated to exacting standards by local Brazilians from Rio de Janeiro who were born and raised eating Acai three times a day. Acai Roots is simply the best natural Acai available anywhere!
Acai Roots is 100% Natural, made with organic brown sugar. Acai Roots has a thick, rich taste and is lower in sodium and cholesterol free.
Other Uses:Apart from the use of its berries as food, the acai palm has other purposes. Leaves may be used for making hats, mats, baskets, brooms and roof thatch for homes, and trunk wood, resistant to pests, for building construction.
Comprising 80% of the berry mass, seeds may be ground for livestock food or as a component of organic soil for plants. Planted seeds are used for new palm tree stock which, under the right growing conditions, requires only months to form seedlings, although aÃ§aÃ palm has not been successfully cultivated outside of South America (Schauss, 2006c). Seeds are also used to make a variety of jewelry and souvenirs.
A powdered preparation of freeze-dried açaí fruit pulp and skin was reported to contain (per 100 g of dry powder) 533.9 calories, 52.2 g carbohydrates, 8.1 g protein, and 32.5 g total fat. The carbohydrate portion included 44.2 g of dietary fiber and low sugar value (pulp is not sweet). The powder was also shown to contain (per 100 g): negligible vitamin C, 260 mg calcium, 4.4 mg iron, and 1002 U vitamin A, as well as aspartic acid and glutamic acid; the amino acid content was 7.59% of total dry weight (versus 8.1% protein).
The fat content of açaí consists of oleic acid (56.2% of total fats), palmitic acid (24.1%), and linoleic acid (12.5%). Açaí also contains beta-sitosterol (78–91% of total sterols)
In the general consumer market, açaí is sold as frozen pulp, juice, or an ingredient in various products from beverages, including grain alcohol, smoothies, foods, cosmetics and supplements. In Brazil, it is commonly eaten as Açaí na tigela.
See also: Enforcement actions against açaí berry supplement manufacturers
In 2004, it became popular to consume açaí as a supplement. The proliferation of various açaí supplement companies often misused celebrity names like Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray to promote açaí weight loss pills online.
Marketers of these products made unfounded claims that açaí and its antioxidant qualities provide a variety of health benefits, none of which has scientific confirmation to date. False claims include reversal of diabetes and other chronic illnesses, as well as expanding size of the penis and increasing men’s sexual virility. As of April 2012, there are no scientifically controlled studies providing proof of any health benefits from consuming açaí. No açaí products have been evaluated by the FDA, and their efficacy is doubtful. Specifically, there is no scientific evidence that açaí consumption affects body weight, promotes weight loss or has any positive health effect.
According to the Washington, D.C. based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) thousands of consumers have had trouble stopping recurrent charges on their credit cards when they cancel free trials of açai-based products. Even some web sites purporting to warn about açai-related scams are themselves perpetrating scams.
In late 2008, lawyers for The Oprah Winfrey Show began investigating statements from supplement manufacturers who alleged that frequent Oprah guest Dr. Mehmet Oz had recommended their product or açai in general for weight loss.
One laboratory study found that commercially available açaí powder added to the diet of fruit flies lengthened their lives when challenged by chemical or genetic oxidative stress. Dietary açaí also restored the flies’ circadian rhythm disturbed by the herbicide paraquat.
Polyphenols and antioxidant activity in vitro:
The oil compartments in açaí fruit contain polyphenols such as procyanidin oligomers and vanillic acid, syringic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, protocatechuic acid, and ferulic acid, which were shown to degrade substantially during storage or exposure to heat. Although these compounds are under study for potential health effects, there remains no substantial evidence that açaí polyphenols have any effect in humans.
A comparative analysis from in vitro studies reported that açaí has intermediate polyphenol content and antioxidant potency among 11 varieties of frozen juice pulps, scoring lower than acerola, mango, strawberry, and grapes.
A powdered preparation of freeze-dried açaí fruit pulp and skin was shown to contain cyanidin 3-O-glucoside and cyanidin 3-O-rutinoside as major anthocyanins; (3.19 mg/g) however, anthocyanins accounted for only about 10% of the overall antioxidant capacity in vitro. The powdered preparation was also reported to contain twelve flavonoid-like compounds, including homoorientin, orientin, taxifolin deoxyhexose, isovitexin, scoparin, as well as proanthocyanidins (12.89 mg/g), and low levels of resveratrol (1.1 ?g/g).
The anthocyanins of fruit likely have relevance to antioxidant capacity only in the plant’s natural defensive mechanisms and in vitro. The Linus Pauling Institute and European Food Safety Authority state that dietary anthocyanins and other flavonoids have little or no direct antioxidant food value following digestion. Unlike controlled test tube conditions, the fate of anthocyanins in vivo shows they are poorly conserved (less than 5%), with most of what is absorbed existing as chemically modified metabolites destined for rapid excretion.
When the entire scientific literature to date and putative health claims of açaí are assessed, experts concluded in 2011 that the fruit is more a phenomenon of Internet marketing than of scientific substance.
Juice blend studies:
Various studies have been conducted that analyze the antioxidant capacity of açaí juice blends to pure fruit juices or fruit pulp. Açaí juice blends contain an undisclosed percentage of açaí.
When three commercially available juice mixes containing unspecified percentages of açaí juice were compared for in vitro antioxidant capacity against red wine, tea, six types of pure fruit juice, and pomegranate juice, the average antioxidant capacity was ranked lower than that of pomegranate juice, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice, and red wine. The average was roughly equivalent to that of black cherry or cranberry juice, and was higher than that of orange juice, apple juice, and tea.
The medical watchdog website Quackwatch noted that “açaí juice has only middling levels of antioxidants — less than that of Concord grape, blueberry, and black cherry juices, but more than cranberry, orange, and apple juices.” The extent to which polyphenols as dietary antioxidants may promote health is unknown, as no credible evidence indicates any antioxidant role for polyphenols in vivo.
Apart from the use of its fruit as food or beverage, the açaí palm has other commercial uses. Leaves may be made into hats, mats, baskets, brooms and roof thatch for homes, and trunk wood, resistant to pests, for building construction. Tree trunks may be processed to yield minerals. The palm heart is widely exploited as a delicacy.
Comprising 80% of the fruit mass, açaí seeds may be ground for livestock food or as a component of organic soil for plants. Planted seeds are used for new palm tree stock, which, under the right growing conditions, can require months to form seedlings. The seeds are a source of polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids
Orally administered açaí has been tested as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging of the gastrointestinal system. Its anthocyanins have also been characterized for stability as a natural food coloring agent.
The dense pigmentation has led to several experimental studies of its anthocyanins, a group of polyphenols that give the deep color to berries, other fruits and vegetables and are high in antioxidant value under active research for potential health benefits. A recent study using a standardized freeze-dried as a fruit pulp and skin powder found the total anthocyanin levels to be 319 mg per 100 grams (Schauss et al., 2006a). Cyandin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-rutinoside are major aÃ§aÃ anthocyanins .
Twelve other flavonoid-like compounds were additionally found in the Schauss et al. 2006a study, including homoorientin, orientin, taxifolin deoxyhexose, isovitexin and scoparin, as well as several unknown flavonoids. Proanthocyanidins, another group of polyphenolic compounds high in antioxidant value, totalled 1,289 mg per 100 grams of the freeze-dried pulp/skin powder, with a profile similar to that of blueberries (Schauss et al., 2006a). Resveratrol was additionally found to be present in acai in this study, although at low levels of 1.1 microgram per gram.
A number of studies have measured the antioxidant strength of acai. Unfortunately, the sources of acai and preparations (e.g., whole fruit, juice, extract or soluble powder) for reporting the results vary. A recent report using a standardized oxygen radical absorbance capacity or ORAC analysis on a freeze-dried acai powder found that this powder showed a high antioxidant effect against peroxyl radical (1027 micromol TE/g). This is approximately 10% more than lowbush blueberry or cranberry on a dry weight basis (Wu, 2004). The ORAC value for this freeze-dried powder was significantly higher than when other methods of drying the fruit were tested (Schauss, 2006c). Other powders with ORAC values this high include cinnamon (2675 micromol TE/g), cloves (3144 micromol TE/g), turmeric (2001 micromol TE/g) and dried oregano (1593 micromol TE/g) (Wu, 2004).
The freeze-dried powder also showed very high activity against superoxide, with a SOD assay level of 1614 units/g. Superoxide is thought to be the initial producer of other more potent reactive oxygen species, and thus protection against it is very important as a first line of defense for the body. Antioxidant activity against both peroxynitrite and hydroxyl radicals was also observed, although effects were milder than that seen against peroxyl radical and superoxide. Additionally, antioxidant molecules from the freeze-dried powder were shown to actually enter freshly obtained human neutrophils and inhibit oxidation induced by hydrogen peroxide, even at very low concentrations of the acai powder including 0.1 part per trillion (Schauss et al., 2006b). A previous report using a total oxygen scavenging capacity assay also found that acai has extremely high antioxidant effects against peroxyl radical, as well as a high capacity against peroxynitrite, and a moderate capacity against hydroxyl radical when compared with other fruit and vegetable juices.
Only 10% of acai’s high antioxidant effects could be explained by its anthocyanin content, indicating that other polyphenols contribute most of the antioxidant activity. Schauss et al. similarly found that that ratio of the hydrophilic ORAC levels to the total phenolics in the freeze-dried fruit was 50, a higher value than the typical fruit and vegetable ratio of 10.
Schauss et al. (2006b) also utilized the “Total Antioxidant” or TAO assay to differentiate the “fast-acting” (measured at 30 seconds) and “slow-acting” (measured at 30 minutes) antioxidant levels present in freeze-dried powder. Acai was found to have a higher “slow-acting” antioxidant components, suggesting a more sustained antioxidant effect compared to “fast-acting” components.
Antioxidant values of the seeds of the aÃ§aÃ fruit have also been reported (Rodrigues, 2006). Similarly to the berries, the antioxidant capacity of the seeds were strongest against peroxyl radicals, at a concentration in the same order of magnitude as the berries. The seeds had a stronger antioxidant effect than the berries for peroxynitrite and hydroxyl radicals, although still less than its effects against peroxy radical. The results of this study were not linear based on the concentration of the seeds that were used. The authors suggest the future use of the seeds (a by-product of juice making) for antioxidant benefits such as prolonging shelf-life of foods.
Acai, in the form of a specific freeze-dried fruit pulp, has been shown to have mild ability to inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes COX-1 and COX-2, with more effect on COX-1 (Schauss et al., 2006b). These enzymes are important in both acute and chronic inflammation, and are targeted by many of the anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Additionally, lower concentrations of the freeze-dried pulp were found to be slightly stimulating to macrophages in vitro. Macrophages are white blood cells that are an important part of the immune system of the body. Also in macrophages, freeze-dried aÃ§aÃ pulp was found to inhibit the production of nitric oxide that had been induced by the potent inflammatory inducer lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which is part of the cell membrane of certain bacteria (Schauss et al. 2006b). This effect increased as the concentration of the acai increased.
In 2006, a study performed at the University of Florida showed that aÃ§aÃ fractions containing polyphenolics could reduce proliferation of HL-60 leukemia cells in vitro. This was most likely due to increased rapid cell death (apoptosis) as fractions were also found to activate caspase-3 (an enzyme important in apoptosis) which was inversely correlated to cell death. (Pozo-Insfran et al., 2006).
Due to its deep pigmentation, orally-administered aÃ§aÃ has been tested as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging of the gastrointestinal system (Cordova-Fraga et al., 2004). Its anthocyanins have been characterized for stability as a natural food coloring agent (Del Pozo-Insfran et al., 2004).
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider
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