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The Effect of Acai (Euterpe spp.) Fruit Pulp on Brain Health and Performance

  • AIBMR Life Sciences Inc.; and University of Arizona

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The pulp of two small palm fruits found in the Amazon forests of South America-. Euterpe oleracea Mart., and Euterpe Precatoria Mart., commonly known as 'acai'-have been found to contain the most potent combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenolics and flavonoids of all fruits, vegetables, or nuts. Flavones in the pulp include a compound called velutin, the most potent anti-inflammatory flavonoid found in nature. Acai has been studied to determine if it has neuroprotective properties capable of preventing, mitigating, and/or treating a range of neurological diseases, including dementia, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's diseases. The pulp's ability to attenuate the development of atherosclerosis lesions in vivo has been of particular interest to neuroscientists given the impact this disease can have on brain function. Research on the benefit of acai in supporting brain health and performance is still in the early stages, but based on the pulp's properties and the experimental outcomes reported to date, further research is warranted.
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Bioactive Nutraceuticals and Dietary Supplements in Neurological and Brain Disease © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Effect of Acai (Euterpe spp.) Fruit Pulp on
Brain Health and Performance
Alexander G. Schauss
Senior Director of Research, Natural and Medicinal Products Research, AIBMR Life Sciences, Puyallup,
Introduction 179
Acai Fruit Pulp 180
Conclusion 184
References 184
Foods rich in anthocyanins and flavonoids have been
shown to be effective in reversing age-related deficits
in memory and learning (Rendeiro et al., 2013). Adult
animals fed a high-fat diet lacking in polyphenols have
been found to exhibit memory deficits associated with
a reduction in hippocampal SIRT1 gene expression
(Heyward et al., 2012) and impaired neurogenesis (Park
et al., 2010).
Mounting evidence suggests that impaired cogni-
tive function is associated with a high-fat diet, resulting
in oxidative stress and subsequent brain inflammation
(Yan et al., 1994) Similarly, high-carbohydrate diets rich
in processed and refined carbohydrates have been impli-
cated because they have been shown to increase protein
glycation, oxidative stress, and inflammation (Pistell
et al., 2010). Even small blood sugar elevations have been
associated with an increased risk of dementia in nondia-
betics, based on 35,264 clinical measurements of glucose
levels and 10,208 measurements of glycated hemoglobin
levels from 2067 participants without dementia followed
for 6.8 years; dementia developed in 524 participants,
of whom 74 had diabetes and 450 did not (Crane et al.,
2013). Even high caloric intake from carbohydrates and
low intake of fats and proteins has been associated with
an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or
dementia, based on the finding that individuals 70 and
older who consume foods high in carbohydrates, par-
ticularly refined sugar, have almost four times the risk
of developing MCI, as seen in a prospective study that
tracked 1,230 people aged 70 to 89 (Robets et al., 2012).
These studies suggest that a healthy balanced diet
of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, such as a low-car-
bohydrate, low-fat, Mediterranean diet (Shal et al.,
2008; Kesse-Guyot et al., 2013; Aalbers et al., 2013),
may reduce the risk associated with age-related MCI
and dementia. The Mediterranean diet has been found
to reduce cognitive decline, reduce MCI, and reduce
the risk of MCI progressing into Alzheimer’s disease
(Louridea et al., 2013). Plant-based diets, inclusive of
whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, have been found
to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve
the metabolic profile, and produce favorable gene
expression. Studies have shown that the longest liv-
ing and least dementia-prone populations subsist on
plant-based diets (Leitzmann, 2005). However, such
populations may also be less prone to stress or chemical
New evidence suggests that chronic stress predis-
poses the brain to mental illnesses such as anxiety
and mood disorders due to increased production of
myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons, resulting in
an excess of white matter in some regions of the brain
such as the hippocampus and disruption in the balance
and timing of communications between cells (Chetty,
A small pilot study has suggested that diet can mod-
erate factors involved in clearing amyloids linked to
Alzheimer’s disease; the investigators found that a diet
with a high glycemic index and high in saturated fat
increased levels of cerebrospinal fluid unbound amy-
loid-beta (Aβ), whereas healthier diets reduced the levels
of these fractions (Hanson et al., 2013). The results sug-
gest that a high-fat diet may interfere with clearance of
amyloid fibrils.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in devel-
oped countries consume a diet characterized by foods
with a low density of nutrients. Although it remains
unclear why following a Mediterranean diet may protect
brain function, some speculate that healthy food choices
improve overall blood vessel health (arterial reactivity)
and reduce the production of free radicals and oxidative
stress, thereby lowering the risk of damage caused by
chronic exposure of brain cells to inflammation (Cordain
et al., 2005; Watzl, 2008).
Constant overproduction of proinflammatory mol-
ecules in the brain can lead to chronic inflammation;
left unchecked, this can contribute to a host of diseases,
including those associated with brain dysfunctions.
Because dietary factors can play an important role in
maintaining health, attention has been given to growing
evidence that polyphenols and other plant compounds
in certain fruits might play a role in attenuating and miti-
gating proinflammatory processes (Van Duyn et al., 2000;
Biesalski, 2007; Bhupathiraju and Tucker, 2011; Holt et al.,
2009; Gonzalez-Gallego et al., 2010; Marzocchella et al.,
2011). Foods rich in flavonoids and anthocyanins, such
as blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries, have been
shown to reverse age-related deficits in neuronal signal
transduction, learning, and memory in animals (Joseph
et al., 1999; Casadesus et al., 2004; Andres-Lacueva et al.,
2005; Joseph et al., 2005; Williams et al., 2008; DeFuria
et al., 2009; Miller and Shukitt-Hale, 2012; Rendeiro et al.,
2013). Blueberries have been shown to inhibit inflamma-
tory mediators by reducing the production of proinflam-
matory cytokines tumor-necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α)
and interluekin 6 (IL-6) production and by inhibition
of NF-κB activation and the mitogen-activated protein
kinase (MAPK) pathway (Lau et al., 2007; Xie et al., 2011).
One novel food that began receiving increasing
attention in the late 1990s due to its extraordinary anti-
oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties compared
to other antioxidant-rich foods is the fruit of two palm
trees growing in the same genus found in the Amazon
of South America: Euterpe oleracea and Euterpe precatoria,
both commonly known as ‘acai.’
Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee; Euterpe oleracea Mart.) is
a small palm fruit with a diameter of 1 to 2 cm that con-
tains a single, tan-colored seed (Figure 19.1). The seed
of acai is covered by a thin layer of an edible purple-
colored pulp. The palm species is found in an area of
over 12 million hectares in the flood plains of the Ama-
zon river. In the city of Belem, in the state of Para, Brazil,
near the mouth of the Amazon river, over 120,000 tons
of the fruit is processed annually for its pulp.
The discovery of acai pulp’s extraordinary free radi-
cal scavenging capacity in vitro was discovered by this
author in 1995, followed by the revelation that it had a
high degree of nutritional density, including an unusu-
ally high concentration of mono- and polyunsaturated
fatty acids (Schauss et al., 2006a, 2006b). The oleic acid
content of the pulp is the same as that found in olive oil.
The pulp’s extraordinary antioxidant-scavenging capac-
ity compared to other fruits against hydroxyl, peroxyl,
and peroxynitrite radicals and the superoxide anion
received considerable attention by food scientists; in turn,
that laid the foundation for over a hundred subsequent
published studies to determine the pulp’s relevance in
the prevention, mitigation, and/or treatment of a range
of diseases in which oxidative processes and inflamma-
tion have been implicated. Analytical studies of the dark
purple acai pulp have found the pulp to be a rich source
FIGURE 19.1 Acai fruit. Alexander G. Schauss.
of polyphenolics, including anthocyanins (e.g., cyanid-
ing, delphinidin, malvidin, pelargonidin, and peonidin),
chrysoerial (a unique flavone), and a group of flavones
with potent dual antioxidant and anti-inflammatory bio-
activities in addition to other flavonoids with known
health benefits (Odendaal and Schauss, 2014). More
recently, the chemistry and nutritional composition of
acai seed has been studied (Wycoff et al., submitted),
particularly after experimental evidence in vivo dem-
onstrated that the seed had protective effects against
emphysema caused by chronic exposure to secondhand
tobacco smoke (Soares de Moura et al., 2011).
Cerebral infarction and systemic atherosclerosis of the
intracranial arteries are known risk factors associated
with MCI and dementia (Suwanwela and Chutinetr,
2003). The role for oxidant stress and resultant endothelial
dysfunction due to inactivation of nitric oxide by super-
oxide and other reactive oxygen species as observed in
the development of atherosclerosis and other cardiovas-
cular diseases has been proposed by numerous investi-
gators (Seo et al., 2008; Dolan et al., 2010; Exel et al., 2002;
Cai and Harrison, 2000; Hoshi et al., 2008).
Whether acai pulp could attenuate atherosclerosis
in ApoE-deficient (ApoE-/-) knockout mice through its
antioxidant and anti-inflammatory bioactivities has
been studied (Xie et al., 2011). In the first study, of 20
weeks duration, and a confirmatory study of five weeks,
ApoE-/- mice were fed a high-fat diet (AIN-93G) con-
taining a 5% freeze-dried acai juice powder. Biomark-
ers of lipid peroxidation (F2-isoprostanes, isomers of
hydroxyoctadecadienoic acids [HODE], and hydroxye-
icosatetraenoic acids [HETE]) and expression of two
antioxidant enzyme genes (glutathione reductase 3
[GPX3] and glutathione reductase [GSR] and paraox-
onase 1 [PON1]) were measured, along with two proin-
flammatory cytokines (TNF-α and IL-6), in both groups
of animals. At 20 weeks, expression of GPX3 and GSR
was found to have been significantly upregulated in the
aorta of acai-fed mice, whereas the activity of GPX, GSR,
and PON1 increased in serum and liver compared to
the control group. In the second five-week study, serum
levels, gene expression, and protein levels of TNF-α
and IL-6 in resident macrophages with or without lipo-
polysaccharide (LPS) stimulation were lowered in the
acai-fed animals. NF-kB activation was also reduced, as
determined by the secreted alkaline phosphate (SEAP)
reporter gene assay. The significant finding of these two
studies was the dramatic reduction in mean lesion areas
of 58% (p<0.001) in the ApoE-/- mice fed freeze-dried
acai juice by 20 weeks, suggesting that acai pulp has the
potential to protect against atherosclerosis even when
consuming a high-fat diet, based on the hyperlipidemic
ApoE- deficient animal model used experimentally.
These results suggest that acai pulp may con-
tain both potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
phytochemical compounds working in unison, worth
identifying for their cardiovascular disease protective
properties. Not long after these results were reported,
further characterization and elucidation of freeze-dried
acai pulp was carried out among several collaborative
laboratories, led by investigators affiliated with the
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and
the University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences;
this research led to the discovery of the most potent
anti-inflammatory flavonoid found in nature among a
class of flavones, including a particularly potent novel
flavone, velutin (Kang et al., 2010, 2011; Xie et al., 2012).
This systematic search for anti-inflammatory flavonoids
in acai pulp also resulted in isolation of 13 flavonoids
with greater than expected anti-inflammatory and anti-
oxidant activities. In the case of velutin, assays deter-
mined that the flavone exhibited a superior inhibitory
effect on nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of
activated B cells activation compared to other flavones
within the same class (Xie et al., 2012). The anti-inflam-
matory properties and underlying mode of action of
velutin revealed an ability to reduce LPS-induced TNF-α
and IL-6 production in RAW 264.7 peripheral mac-
rophages and mice peritoneal macrophages (Xie et al.,
2012). As assessed by the SEAP assay, velutin not only
showed a significant inhibitory effect on NF-κB activa-
tion, but also exhibited the greatest effect by blocking
the degradation of IkB as well as inhibiting c-Jun N-ter-
minal kinase (JNK) phosphorylation and p38 MAPK,
involved in signaling pathways that led to production
of TNF-α and IL-6.
Recent studies have suggested that a higher intake of
antioxidants such as flavones and anthocyanins might
benefit insulin sensitivity and inflammation. In one
study, women who had the highest intake of flavones
(4.21 mg/d) had 8.3% higher levels of the hormone adi-
ponectin, which is elevated in lean, healthy individu-
als, 7.8% lower levels of insulin, and 8.3% lower levels
of the homeostasis model assessment-estimated insulin
resistance (HOMA-IR) index, compared to those with
the lowest 20% (0.59 mg/d) of intake (Jennings, 2014).
Among those with the highest 20% of intake (39.9 mg/d)
of anthocyanins, 9.5% had lower levels of insulin, 18.25
had lower levels of the inflammatory protein hs-C-
reactive protein (hs-CRP), and 8.3% had lower levels of
HOMA-IR than those with the lowest 20% of anthocy-
anin intake. Although the highest group intake levels of
flavones and anthocyanins can be readily consumed by
eating oranges, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, rasp-
berries, or blackberries, acai pulp has been shown in a
human pharmacokinetic study involving healthy adult
volunteers to result in up to an eight- to ten-fold higher
absorption of anthocyanins compared to berries with
higher concentrations of the compounds (Mertens-Talc-
ott et al., 2008).
That these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory com-
pounds are absorbed is but one step in demonstrating
their utility insofar as promoting any health benefits. To
determine if acai pulp does provide a measurable benefit
in humans, a 12-week study of 48 to 84 year olds with
an impaired range of motion (ROM) that affected daily
living was carried out (Jensen et al., 2011). Participants
were asked to consume 120 ml/day of an anthocyanin-
rich juice, whose predominant ingredient was freeze-
dried and frozen acai pulp. Study participants were
assessed at baseline and 2, 4, 8, and 12 weeks by a struc-
tured nurse interview, pain and activities of daily living
(ADL) questionnaires, blood samples, and ROM assess-
ment using dual digital inclinometry as recommended
by American Medical Association guidelines. Consump-
tion of the juice resulted in significant reduction in pain
and improved ROM and ADLs. At the end of 12 weeks,
hs-CRP was reduced, as well as lipid peroxidation. Most
notably, serum antioxidant status improved within two
weeks after consuming the acai beverage and continued
to improve through the 12th week, as seen in the cell-
based antioxidant protection in erythrocytes (CAP-e)
assay (Honzel et al., 2008).
The results of this human study confirmed benefits
seen in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled
crossover study of the same acai-rich beverage in healthy
19 to 52 year olds for antioxidant uptake and changes in
inflammatory markers (Jensen et al., 2008). In the ran-
domized controlled trial, subjects under imposed oxida-
tive stress produced by fasting consumed 120 ml of the
beverage; blood samples were thereafter taken at 30, 60,
and 120 minutes. Participants consuming the acai-rich
beverage had significantly increased protection from
oxidative damage based on the CAP-e assay (p<0.001),
reduced formation of ROS in polymorphonuclear cells
(p<0.003), and reduced migration of three proinflamma-
tory chemoattractants (bacterial peptide f-Met-Leu-Phe
[fmlp; p<0.001], leukotriene B4 [p<0.05], and interleu-
kin 8 [IL-8; p<0.03]). The investigators commented that
given the high levels of polyphenols in the beverage due
to acai pulp, the increased antioxidant protection in vivo
after consumption, and the anti-inflammatory capacity
in vitro, further research was warranted to evaluate the
pulp on compromised cognitive function.
Recently, such studies have been performed in a
series of experiments led by neuroscientists at the
USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging
(HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston in collabora-
tion with investigators at other institutions. The center
has been studying age-related diseases of the brain and
in the process has determined that a direct link exists
between oxidative stress and inflammation, and com-
promised memory, learning, and movement. Earlier
studies performed at the center showed that consump-
tion of polyphenolic-rich berries results in modulation
of signaling in primary hippocampal neurons or BV-2
mouse microglial cells. How the pulp affects neuronal
signaling has been of particular interest. Application
of acai pulp fractions to hippocampal neurons resulted
in significant recovery of depolarized brain cells from
dopamine (DA)-induced Ca+2 10 influx, an increase in
the length of basal dendrites, and attenuation of inhib-
itor-induced autophagy dysfunction (Poulose et al.,
2012, 2014). Because of the high polyphenolic content
of acai pulp, USDA’s HNRCA also explored the effect of
acai fractions on BV-2 mouse microglial cells (Poulose
et al., 2012). Treatment of BV-2 cells with acai fractions
resulted in significant (p<0.05) decreases in nitrite pro-
duction accompanied by reduced inducible nitric oxide
synthase (iNOS) expression, cyclo- oxygenase-2 (COX-2)
and iNOS produced proinflammatory mediators, such
as prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and nitric oxide (Caolini
et al., 2002). Also observed was protection of microglial
cells by a significant concentration-dependent reduc-
tion in COX-2, p38-MAPK, TNF-α, and NF-κB. These
results infer that acai pulp may contain compounds
whose effects on brain cells could result in an improve-
ment in cognitive and motor functions by modulating
signaling, downregulating phosphorylation of NF-κB,
and transcriptionally suppressing production of COX-2
and iNO-S. The investigators also suggested that con-
sumption of acai pulp “may contribute to ‘health span’
in aging, as it is able to combat some of the inflamma-
tory and oxidative mediators of aging at the cellular
level.” (Caolini et al., 2002, p1092). To determine if acai
pulp could reverse or mitigate age-related cognitive
and motor deficits, additional experiments were carried
out in aged rats fed acai-supplemented diets, and other
studies are also bearing this out. Spada and colleagues
(2009) have reported that pretreatment with acai pulp
mitigated damage caused by hydrogen peroxide in the
cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and hippocampus of adult
Before performing in vivo studies of the effect of acai
pulp on cognitive and motor function in aged animals, a
discovery was made by another group at the USDA Chil-
dren’s Nutrition Center and the University of Arkansas
in Little Rock related to acai just before further studies
on the effect of acai pulp were carried out. Although
virtually all acai fruit is harvested and processed for
domestic use and export in the lowland floodplains of
the Amazon, a different species of acai, Euterpe precatoria,
a single-stem palm tree, was found to be highly concen-
trated among millions of hectares of land in the Bolivian
Amazon, east of Santa Cruz, and into the Brazilian Ama-
zon. Therefore, characterization and elucidation of the
polyphenolics of E. precatoria fruit pulp was carried out
to determine if it too had exceptional antioxidant and
anti-inflammatory properties and, later, what effects it
might have in protecting neurons during stress.
In comparing E. oleracea (EO) to E. precatoria (EP) acai,
four assays were performed: a series of oxygen radical
absorbance capacity (ORAC) assays to derive a total
ORAC value; the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazil (DPPH)
assay; the CAP-e assay; and the NF-κB SEAP assay. Total
phenolics were also measured as an indication of total
phenolic content. EP fruit pulp was found to be superior
to EO pulp in every assay (Kang et al., 2012). EP pulp
inhibited LPS-induced NF-κB activation by 23% (p<0.05)
at 20 microgram/ml, whereas EO pulp showed no sig-
nificant inhibitory effect at comparable doses. Although
freeze-dried EO pulp had the highest hydroxyl radical
and superoxide anion-scavenging capacity based on
antioxidant assays such as ORAC and the ferric-reducing
ability of plasma (FRAP) assay when reported in 2006,
EP pulp was found to be significantly superior, placing
it in a unique position in terms of in vitro assays of this
nature as an antioxidant-rich food when compared to all
fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Taken together, for example,
EP fruit pulp resulted in three times higher total ORAC
value than that of EO fruit pulp (7698.6 micromole Tro-
lox Equivalent [TE]/g versus 2649.1 micromole TE/g),
whereas total phenolics by the Fast Blue (FBBB) method
were three times higher in EP than in EO.
To date, systematic isolation and evaluation of puri-
fied compounds in EO and EP fruit pulp has not been car-
ried out in order to isolate the constituents and bioactive
compounds responsible for the differences in scavenging
activities. Given the mounting evidence of a benefit of
other dark-colored fruits and berries on cognitive func-
tion, the determination of the pulp’s superior ORAC and
DPPH values warrants additional feeding studies. Two
such studies have been carried out, the first of which
examined whether either of the acai pulps would attenu-
ate stressor-induced calcium dysregulation in rodent
brain cells and/or restore autophagy. Both dysregulation
of Ca+2 and homeostasis and loss of autophagy function
in the brain have been implicated in progressive neuro-
nal degeneration and death associated with acute and
chronic neuropathologies (Poulose et al., 2014).
The results of this acai pulp study showed that pre-
treatment of rodent primary hippocampal neurons
in vitro up to 1 mg/ml significantly increased the length
of basal dendrites while attenuating inhibitor-induced
autophagy dysfunction. Acai pulp was found to activate
phosphorylation of mammalian target of rapamycin
(mTOR), increase the turnover of authophagosomes and
microtubule-associated protein 1B (MAP1B-Ls-II), and
decrease accumulation of LC3-ubiquitin binding P62/
SQSTM1 (also known as sequestosome1). The ubiquitin-
proteasome system and autophagy are two major mech-
anisms for protein degradation, as shown in eukaryotic
cells (Gao et al., 2010). Surprisingly, even though the
polyphenolic concentration of EP pulp was found to be
significantly higher in major flavonoids compared to
EO’s pulp, both species of fruit pulp showed essentially
the same effect. However, EP pulp’s scavenging ability
against the superoxide anion and single oxygen (1O2)
and inhibition of LPS-induced NF-κB activation were
found to be superior to EO fruit pulp. This may be due to
EP pulp containing significantly stronger water-soluble
antioxidants able to enter cells and inhibit ROS forma-
tion compared to EO pulp, which is richer in mono- and
polyunsaturated fatty acids (Schauss et al., 2006).
A study of the pulp’s effects against amyloid-β (AB)
in vitro has been carried out. The study found that acai
protected against AB-mediated loss of cell viability
and oxidative stress associated with antifibrillar effects
(Wong et al., 2013). Compared to other phenolics, acai
was found to be more effective at inhibiting amyloid
aggregation. Such inhibition may provide further insight
into how acai exerts its neuroprotective effect and might
mitigate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Acai pulp’s properties and bioactivities have been
studied at the National Center on Aging of the US
National Institute of Health (NIH) in Baltimore. Studies
in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) showed that adding
just 2% freeze-dried acai pulp to a high-fat diet resulted
in a significant positive life extension effect via modu-
lation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-signaling
pathway, an increase in the transcript level of the heat-
shock-related protein (l(2)efl), a decrease in transcription
of phosphoenol-pyruvate carboxykinase (Pepck)—a key
gene involved in gluconeogenesis—a reduction in TNF-
α, IL-6, and NF-κB, and an increase in the production of
glutathione S transferase (GstD1) and metallothionein A
(MtnA)—both endogenous antioxidant enzymes—com-
pared to controls (Sun et al., 2010). Previous studies have
shown that high-fat diets in flies are just as detrimental
to their health as they are in humans (Driver et al., 1986),
so attention to these findings is warranted.
In another study by USDA HNRCA, 19-month-old
(aged) F344 rats were fed either a diet containing 2%
freeze-dried pulp from Euterpe oleracea (EO) or Euterpe
precatoria (EP), or a control diet for seven weeks, prior to
cognitive testing (Miller et al., 2013). Cognitive function
was performed using the Morris water maze (MWM)
to test memory and spatial learning. Serum collection
at the end of the study was performed. BV2 microglial
cells were cultured, and nitrite was quantified to assess
production of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrite (NO2) as
well as quantification of TNF-α by ELISA and inducible
nitrous oxide (iNOS) and COX-2 by Western blots. The
results showed that acai significantly improved working
and reference memory compared to controls. BV2 cells
treated with serum from aged rats from each group indi-
cated that the EO-fed rats showed significantly reduced
nitrite levels relative to aged control or EP-fed rats
(Poulose and Shukitt-Hale, 2013). Cells treated with serum
from EO- and EP- fed rats both showed significantly
reduced TNF-α and reduced iNOS levels compared to
control-fed rats. It was also determined that extracel-
lular nitrite levels and TNF-α levels significantly cor-
related with performance. Rats who improved the least
from trial to trial on the MWM showed the highest TNF-
α levels. The study came to the conclusion that dietary
acai improves working and reference memory in aged
rats. Pretreatment with serum from aged, acai-fed rats
reduced nitrite, iNOS, and TNF-α production, but not
COX-2, in BV2 cells. Although EO acai was determined
to have lower levels of total phenolics than EP acai, over-
all each acai pulp was equally effective in enhancing
working memory.
A substantial number of studies have demonstrated
that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and nuts, especially
those foods rich in polyphenols, improve brain health
via reducing oxidative stress and oxidative damage to
cells and neuroinflammation, while modulating increas-
ing expression of neuronal-signaling molecules that
have been seen in vivo to improve behavior as well as
cognitive and motor function (Galland, 2010; Masters
et al., 2010; Bakker et al., 2010; Wu and Schauss, 2012).
There nevertheless remains an inadequate body of evi-
dence based on long-term studies in humans to show
that these polyphenolics preserve brain function once
they cross the blood–brain barrier.
Acai fruit pulp, rich in polyphenols and with supe-
rior antioxidant and anti-inflammatory bioactivity com-
pared to other polyphenolic-rich foods (Odendaal and
Schauss, 2014), deserves long-term study to determine
its position as a fruit with neuroprotective properties.
The observed dose-dependent inhibition of mTOR by EP
and EO fruit pulp suggests a potential role in providing
neuronal protection. Further evidence to support inves-
tigations on the effect of acai in neuroprotection comes
from a study of the pulp’s effects against AB in vitro. A
study found that acai protected against AB-mediated
loss of cell viability and oxidative stress associated with
antifibrillar effects. Compared to other phenolics, acai
was found to be more effective at inhibiting amyloid
aggregation. Such inhibition may provide insight into
how acai exerts its neuroprotective effect.
Given the ‘epidemic’ growth of diabetes and the rise
in obesity worldwide, the known role of blood glucose
in regulating autophagy, and its ability to significantly
inhibit phosphorylated mTOR by acai pretreatment,
further studies of the fruit seem warranted. Insulin
resistance is characterized by a marked increase in ROS
production and oxidative stress, both processes that
might be attenuated by acai pulp in vivo, given the effect
of the pulp in sequestering p62 (sequestosome), and a
distinguishing characteristic of type 2 diabetes is poor
performance on measures of memory and learning.
Microvascular disease associated with chronic hyper-
glycemia in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes has also
been shown to impair measures of attention, executive
function, and motor performance. The observed benefit
seen in ApoE-deficient mice on a high-fat diet and the
dramatic reduction in the formation of atherosclerotic
lesions in those animals given a small amount of freeze-
dried acai would suggest the possibility that acai pulp
consumption could play a role in mitigating the damag-
ing effect of diabetes in general, and in time could play a
role in mitigating damage to the brain.
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... Euterpe edulis, Euterpe precatoria, and Euterpe oleracea are three species generating edible fruit, which were discovered in the Amazon region (23). The most consumed is Euterpe oleracea due to its high free radical scavenging capacity in vitro, which was discovered by Alexander Schauss in 1995 (24,25). Since then, this novel berry received much attention among food scientists, being called a 'superfood' (23). ...
... Since then, this novel berry received much attention among food scientists, being called a 'superfood' (23). Euterpe oleracea berry is a small round palm fruit, 1 to 2 cm in diameter, containing a single, dark coloured seed (25). A thin layer of edible purple pulp covers the seed (25). ...
... Euterpe oleracea berry is a small round palm fruit, 1 to 2 cm in diameter, containing a single, dark coloured seed (25). A thin layer of edible purple pulp covers the seed (25). In the Para State of Brazil, acai palms are extensively distributed and cultivated (26), covering over 12 million hectares of flooded forest land near the Amazon River, and over 120 000 tons of the fruit is processed annually for its pulp (25). ...
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Dietary interventions rich in fruits and vegetables in aging people can reverse or mitigate age-related cognitive declines, delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs), and provide long-term health dividends. The novel food, popularly known as "Acai", is a berry belonging to the Euterpe genus of tropical palms trees and natively found in South America. Euterpe oleracea has been given much attention among scientists due to its high antioxidant capacity compared to other fruits and berries. Additionally, acai pulp composition analysis found that it contains various biologically active phytochemicals. In this review, we focused on current evidence relating to acai berry neuroprotection mechanisms and its efficacy in preventing or reversing neurodegeneration and age-related cognitive decline. A number of studies have illustrated the potential neuroprotective properties of acai berries. They have shown that their chemical extracts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and maintain proteins, calcium homeostasis, and mitochondrial function. Moreover, acai berry extract offers other neuromodulatory mechanisms, including anticonvulsant, antidepressant, and anti-aging properties. This neuromodulation gives valuable insights into the acai pulp and its considerable pharmacological potential on critical brain areas involved in memory and cognition. The isolated chemical matrix of acai berries could be a new substitute in research for NDD medicine development. However, due to the limited number of investigations, there is a need for further efforts to establish studies that enable progressing to clinical trials to consequently prove and ratify the therapeutic potential of this berry for several incurable NDDs.
... The main secondary metabolites present in the fruits of açai are phenolics, principally flavonoids and anthocyanins (Costa et al., 2013). The dissimilar chemical composition of the açai fruit pulp allows their use in nutraceuticals, cosmetic and food industries (Schauss, 2015; Schauss, 2016). However, there are few scientific studies supporting the pharmacological and toxicological properties of the açai fruit pulp. ...
... The botanical classification of this species, according to Cronquist is Kingdom Plantae; Division: Magnoliophyta; Class: Liliopsida; Order: Arecales, Family: Arecaceae; Genus: Euterpe; Species: E. oleracea. The binomial name of this species is E. oleracea Martius 1824 (Schauss, 2015Schauss, , 2016). Figure 2show the açai palm tree and the collected fruit ready to be commercialized. ...
... Açai fruit pulp, the whole fruit, and the root of the açai palm tree have been used by Amazonian tribes as the remedy for treating diarrhea, parasitic infections, bleeding, and ulcer (Schauss, 2015Schauss, , 2016). The decoction of the açai crushed seed has been used for the treatment of fever, menstrual pain, liver diseases, and malaria. ...
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The açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart) fruit pulp is extensively used in Brazil as food among other uses. The health benefits of açai are largely reported by the Amazon inhabitants. Nonetheless, just a few pharmacological and toxicological studies were made to probe the innocuousness and the safety of the use of this product. The aims of this work were to update knowledge about the chemical composition, pharmacological and toxicological studies of the fruits and to identify possible vacuum of knowledge in the use, evaluation, and characterization of E. oleracea Mart (Açai) as a promising Amazon superfruit. It was made a draw out internet revision, especially in databases as NCBI, SCOPUS, PUBMED, SCIELO, and ELSEVIER by using the keywords E. oleracea, açai, nutraceuticals and food supplementations. Also, it was looked for each one of the ethnobotanical uses reported for this plant species combined with the first keywords. A complete record of the chemical composition of this species was achieved. Just two studies in humans were found in the literature using the açai fruit pulp. There is no sufficient systematic evidence to assure that all of the ethnobotanical uses of this species are true. A great emptiness of scientific knowledge related to the real benefits of this plant species exist. There exist neither pharmaceutical forms nor standardized product derived from the açai fruit. Until now, the number of scientific studies that allow the validaton of the ethnopharmacological practices, the innocuousness and the safety of the use of this plant fruit is insufficient.
... Mechanistically, the neurobehavioral response induced by the EO-enriched group could be better associated with its antioxidant properties than its rich composition of PUFA, since OO enriched diet (comparable PUFA diet) failed to have similar results. Since that our findings revealed low MDA levels in the hippocampus without being followed by lipid metabolism improvements, previous studies proved that polyphenols from EO reduce LP and ROS production, increase the activity of endogenous antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase (GPX) and superoxide dismutase (SOD), and lower the expression of pro-inflammatory markers (3,22,25,26). This fruit can also boost cells' energy and the microbiome-gut-brain axis activity, modulate neurotransmitter levels, recruit anti-inflammatory markers, and induce antioxidant response (20,24,25). ...
... Since that our findings revealed low MDA levels in the hippocampus without being followed by lipid metabolism improvements, previous studies proved that polyphenols from EO reduce LP and ROS production, increase the activity of endogenous antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase (GPX) and superoxide dismutase (SOD), and lower the expression of pro-inflammatory markers (3,22,25,26). This fruit can also boost cells' energy and the microbiome-gut-brain axis activity, modulate neurotransmitter levels, recruit anti-inflammatory markers, and induce antioxidant response (20,24,25). At the hippocampus level, EO-pulp modulates nuclear factor-erythroid factor 2-related factor 2 (Nrf-2) and ubiquitin-proteasomal pathway, slowing down aging processes (27). ...
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Background: Açaí (Euterpe oleracea) has a rich nutritional composition, showing nutraceutical and protective effects in several organs. In this study, the effects of an açaí-enriched diet on motor performance, anxiety-like behavior, and memory retention were deeply investigated. Methods: Eight-week male Wistar rats were fed with an Euterpe oleracea (EO) pulp-enriched diet, an olive oil-enriched (OO) diet (polyunsaturated fatty acid [PUFA] fat control diet), or a chow diet for 31 days (28 days pre-treatment and 3 days during behavioral tests). Afterward, animals were submitted to a battery of behavioral tests to evaluate spontaneous motor behavior (open-field test), anxiety-like behavior (elevated plus maze and open-field test), and memory retention (step-down). Oxidative stress in the hippocampus was evaluated by a lipid peroxidation assay. Results: EO-enriched diet did not influence the body weight and food intake but increased the glucose plasmatic level after 31 days under this diet. However, a similar fat-enriched diet stimulated a marked weight gain and reduced the food intake, followed by changes in the plasmatic lipid markers. EO-enriched diet preserved the motor spontaneous performance, increased the exploration in the aversive environment (anxiolytic-like effects), and elevated the latency to step-down (improved memory retention). The EO-enriched diet also reduced the level of lipid peroxidation in the hippocampus. These positive effects of EO-enriched diet can greatly support the usage of this diet as a preventive therapy. Conclusion: Taken together, the current study suggests that Euterpe oleracea-enriched diet promotes anxiolytic- like effects and improves memory consolidation, possibly due to the reduced levels of lipid peroxidation in the hippocampus. Keywords: anxiety; memory; oxidative stress; hippocampus; polyunsaturated diet
... Researchers have been paid particular attention to the antioxidant activity showed by this plant fruits. Nonetheless, results obtained are not conclusive and contradictory (Heinrich et al., 2010) due to the presence of a high number of other metabolites like fatty acid, anthraquinones, carbohydrates and the presence of considerable amount of fibers (Schauss, 2015). ...
... Despite the EOM has attracted considerable attention because of their medicinal properties and a potent antioxidant activity, all beverages and dietary supplements on the market are prepared with açai dry pulp ( Schauss 2015Schauss , 2016. Up to our knowledge, there is no report attempt to produce and standardize anthocyanin-rich extract from this fruit, for their utilization in nutraceutical and/or food preparations. ...
... Researchers have been paid particular attention to the antioxidant activity showed by this plant fruits. Nonetheless, results obtained are not conclusive and contradictory (Heinrich et al., 2011) due to the presence of a high number of other metabolites like fatty acid, anthraquinones, carbohydrates and the presence of considerable amount of fibers (Schauss, 2015). ...
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... Several authors, (Carey et al., 2017;Schauss, 2015) claim that the açaí pulp consists of a variety of phenolic acids and polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, belonging to the group of flavonoids such as pelargonidin, cyanidin, delfinidine , peonidine, petunidine and malvidin found in the açaí fruit (Schulz et al., 2016). In addition to these, other flavonoids from the group of flavonols and flavones (vitexin, luteolin, crereriol, quercetin, homoorientin, orientin, isovitexine, scoparin, taxifoline, deoxyhexose, deoxyhexose, isoorientin and vanillic acid). ...
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Açaí is a species of plant of the genus Euterpe, which is part of the tribe Euterpeinae and belongs to the family Arecaceae (Palmae), distributed in the Brazilian biome, mainly in the Amazon rainforest, cerrado and Atlantic forest, throughout Central America and up to the north of South America. Traditionally, açaí pulp has been used for artisanal consumption in the form of sweets, ice cream, creams, yoghurts, liqueurs, popsicles, jellies, porridge, sweets, nectars, teas, shakes, smoothies, energy and isotonic drinks, in natura, juices, fermented drinks, given its chemical properties and the presence of bioactive compounds, being also used for therapeutic and medi cinal purposes. As a food, açaí is rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, lipids and phenolic substances, mainly anthocyanins from the flavonoid group. In the pharmacological and therapeutic sector, the genus Euterpe spp. it has several important biological implications, such as antioxidant, hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiproliferative, immunomodulatory, cardioprotective, antidiarrheal, anticarcinogenic, reducing reactive oxygen species, inflammatory cytokine production and muscle stress markers. The present review summarizes the knowledge about the chemical composition, pharmacological and therapeutic effects, clinical, food and medicinal applications of the genus Euterpe spp.
... Researchers have been paid particular attention to the antioxidant activity showed by this plant fruits. Nonetheless, results obtained are not conclusive and contradictory (Heinrich et al., 2011) due to the presence of a high number of other metabolites like fatty acid, anthraquinones, carbohydrates and the presence of considerable amount of fibers (Schauss, 2015). ...
... Researchers have been paid particular attention to the antioxidant activity showed by this plant fruits. Nonetheless, results obtained are not conclusive and contradictory (Heinrich et al., 2011) due to the presence of a high number of other metabolites like fatty acid, anthraquinones, carbohydrates and the presence of considerable amount of fibers (Schauss, 2015). ...
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The main constituents of the Euterpe oleracea Mart., Arecaceae, fruits (açaí) are anthocyanins. This paper aimed to standardize the extraction process and characterize an anthocyanin-rich dry extract obtained from this fruit. A 23 full factorial design was used. The volumes of ethanol 92% and acetic acid and the extraction time were used as factors. Total solids and anthocyanins content were used as feedback. The dry extract was obtained by freeze-drying. The content of anthocyanins was determined spectrophotometrically. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, Differential Scanning Calorimeter, Thermogravimetry, Scanning Electron Microscopy, and Atomic Absorption Spectrometry were used for characterizingthe dry extract. The DPPH method was used for evaluating radical scavenging activity. The extraction conditions were established. The most influent factor was the volume of acetic acid. The dry extract moisture content was equal to 1.39 ± 0.25%, the evaporation residue 97.25 ± 1.28%, total ashes 0.62 ± 0.12%, and the anthocyanin content was 61.75 ± 3.28%. The elemental composition shows the presence of manganese 4.85 ppm, iron 1.62 ppm, zinc 0.05, copper 1.38 ppm, calcium 1.01 ppm, cadmium 0.003 ppm, nickel 0.37 ppm, and lead 0.38 ppm. The dried extract IC50 estimated by the radical scavenging assay with DPPH was 31.25 ± 2.31 ppm. The optimal extraction conditions were: the volume of ethanol 92%: 400 ml; volume of acetic acid: 75 ml; an extraction time: 4 h. Keywords: Açai, Anthocyanins, Antioxidant, Dry extract, Extraction, Factorial design
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Attack by reactive oxygen intermediates, common to many kinds of cell/tissue injury, has been implicated in the development of diabetic and other vascular diseases. Such oxygen-free radicals can be generated by advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are nonenzymatically glycated and oxidized proteins. Since cellular interactions of AGEs are mediated by specific cellular binding proteins, receptor for AGE (RAGE) and the lactoferrin-like polypeptide (LF-L), we tested the hypothesis that AGE ligands tethered to the complex of RAGE and LF-L could induce oxidant stress. AGE albumin or AGEs immunoisolated from diabetic plasma resulted in induction of endothelial cell (EC) oxidant stress, including the generation of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and resulted in the activation of NF-kappaB, each of which was blocked by antibodies to AGE receptor polypeptides and by antioxidants. Infusion of AGE albumin into normal animals led to the appearance of malondialdehyde determinants in the vessel wall and increased TBARS in the tissues, activation of NF-kappaB, and induction of heme oxygenase mRNA. AGE-induced oxidant stress was inhibited by pretreatment of animals with either antibodies to the AGE receptor/binding proteins or antioxidants. These data indicate that interaction of AGEs with cellular targets, such as ECs, leads to oxidant stress resulting in changes in gene expression and other cellular properties, potentially contributing to the development of vascular lesions. Further studies will be required to dissect whether oxidant stress occurs on the cell surface or at an intracellular locus.
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Stress can exert long-lasting changes on the brain that contribute to vulnerability to mental illness, yet mechanisms underlying this long-term vulnerability are not well understood. We hypothesized that stress may alter the production of oligodendrocytes in the adult brain, providing a cellular and structural basis for stress-related disorders. We found that immobilization stress decreased neurogenesis and increased oligodendrogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the adult rat hippocampus and that injections of the rat glucocorticoid stress hormone corticosterone (cort) were sufficient to replicate this effect. The DG contains a unique population of multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs) that give rise to adult newborn neurons, but oligodendrogenic potential has not been demonstrated in vivo. We used a nestin-CreER/YFP transgenic mouse line for lineage tracing and found that cort induces oligodendrogenesis from nestin-expressing NSCs in vivo. Using hippocampal NSCs cultured in vitro, we further showed that exposure to cort induced a pro-oligodendrogenic transcriptional program and resulted in an increase in oligodendrogenesis and decrease in neurogenesis, which was prevented by genetic blockade of glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Together, these results suggest a novel model in which stress may alter hippocampal function by promoting oligodendrogenesis, thereby altering the cellular composition and white matter structure.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 11 February 2014; doi:10.1038/mp.2013.190.
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Although laboratory data suggest that several flavonoid subclasses are involved in glucose metabolism, limited clinical and epidemiologic data are available. The current study examined associations between habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses, insulin resistance, and related inflammatory biomarkers. In a cross-sectional study of 1997 females aged 18-76 y, intakes of total flavonoids and their subclasses (flavanones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, polymeric flavonoids, flavonols, flavones) were calculated from food frequency questionnaires using an extended USDA database. Fasting serum glucose, insulin, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP; n = 1432), plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (n = 843), and adiponectin (n = 1452) levels were measured. In multivariable analyses, higher anthocyanin and flavone intake were associated with significantly lower peripheral insulin resistance [homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance; quintile 5 (Q5) to Q1 = -0.1, P-trend = 0.04 for anthocyanins and flavones] as a result of a decrease in insulin concentrations (Q5-Q1 = -0.7 μU/mL, P-trend = 0.02 anthocyanins; Q5-Q1 = -0.5 μU/mL, P-trend = 0.02 flavones). Higher anthocyanin intake was also associated with lower hs-CRP levels (Q5-Q1 = -0.3 mg/L, P-trend = 0.04), whereas those in the highest quintile of flavone intake had improved adiponectin levels (Q5-Q1 = 0.7 μg/L, P-trend = 0.01). Anthocyanin-rich foods were also associated with lower insulin and inflammation levels. No significant associations were observed for total or other flavonoid subclasses. Higher intakes of both anthocyanins and flavones were associated with improvements in insulin resistance and hs-CRP. These associations were found with intakes readily achieved in the diet. The observed reduction in insulin levels was similar to that reported previously for other lifestyle factors. Dose-response trials are needed to ascertain optimal intakes for the potential reduction of type 2 diabetes risk.
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Euterpe oleracea Martius (Arecaceae), commonly known as açaí, is one of several Amazonian palm trees of the genus Euterpe that produce a small edible fruit. A viscous liquid prepared from the fruit's pulp has a long history of use among endogenous people living in the Amazon floodplains. Açaí contains various polyphenols including anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and flavonoids, as part of its phytochemical composition. In 1996, it was determined that the fruit's pulp had potent antioxidant properties. The free radical scavenging potential of this fruit was eventually shown to have potential health benefits beyond its nutritional value attributed to its nutritional composition and vast array of polyphenols, including a class of flavones that exhibit both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory bioactivity. Among these flavones is a compound determined to be the most potent anti-inflammatory flavonoid found in nature. Animal and human studies have demonstrated that the combination of polyphenols and fatty acids in açaí may have the potential to attenuate the adverse effects associated with oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Polysaccharides in the pulp and compounds in the seed have also shown promising health benefits warranting further investigation.
Aging is a common risk factor for most diseases, particularly neurodegenerative diseases, which are debilitating in natureand compromise the quality of life, in addition to being economically burdensome. Complete cures for these ageassociated brain's diseases are still not in sight; therefore delaying or preventing the pathological manifestation of these diseases through enhancing the brain's endogenous defense mechanisms has gained research attention as an alternate approach. Fruits, nuts and vegetables packed with a multitude of phytochemicals, many of which have potent health benefits, are being actively pursued in this alternate approach. Anthocyanins and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to improve brain function by acting as antioxidant or anti-Inflammatory agents as well as altering neuronal signaling mechanisms. Walnuts and Amazonian palm fruit (açaí), are particularly rich in omega fatty acids and anthocyanins respectively, along with many other neuroactive phytochemicals. A review of the functional effects of walnuts and açaí on brain health is presented here.