Acai has been eaten for hundreds of years for their abundance of antioxidants, cancer prevention, promotion of heart health and as a means of boosting the immune system. The acai berry is a berry grown in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil and other parts of South America. Acai is considered a “superfood” for its nutrient density and wide-ranging health benefits.
Acai berries have anthocyanin within the pulp, which is what produces the antioxidants (1).
Many foods contain antioxidants, but even among those with the highest antioxidant levels, the acai berry is still superior with an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value of 102700 (2).
The absorption of the antioxidants in acai berries has been shown to be extremely high (3).
This is important to note because not everything we ingest is always digested as certain foods provide better nutrient bioavailability than others.
A 2017 study with mice showed that acai pulp reduced the incidence of colon cancer. The researchers concluded suggested that “suggests that the intake of açaí may be beneficial for the prevention of human colon cancer (9).”
Acai berries stop cancer cell growth. Two 2010 studies showed that acai berries could block up to 95% of bad cell growth. This is because the anthocyanins and polyphenols found in acai berries have strong anti-proliferative properties – which means they stop bad cells from growing out of control (10, 11).
It seems that acai could have a role in treating cancer in the future, yet more research is needed in humans to confirm.
A 2014 study showed that those same plant compounds in acai could also protect your brain from damage as you age. It does this by stimulating autophagy. Autophagy is the brain’s way to clean up toxic or broken cells before they become cancerous. As you age, autophagy stops working as well – but acai has been shown to improve it so that your brain is protected longer (14).
Acai berries can improve cholesterol levels. Regular acai consumption has been shown to lower total cholesterol (15, 16). One study in obese patients found that acai berries lowered the bad (LDL) cholesterol specifically (17). As well as lowering cholesterol, acai may also prevent cholesterol build up in the first place (18).
A 2011 open-label pilot study published in Nutrition Journal had 10 overweight adults consume acai smoothies for 4 weeks, two times per day. By the end of the study, they had lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol demonstrating the effectiveness of acai (19).
Another 2012 study showed that acai could also block cholesterol being absorbed by your body (20).
Trials in humans are limited, but all current research shows promising results for cholesterol management.
Acai berries can help you lose weight. One 2015 study involving overweight women found that eating 200 grams of acai pulp increased insulin sensitivity and reduced skinfold measurements and total body fat (21).
Acai berries can help digestion. Acai berries have traditionally been used to aid with digestion after large meals. The seeds of the berries have very high concentrations of fiber and an unusual ability to absorb and digest dietary fat (22).
Acai berries can improve lung health. Acai seed extract has properties that may prevent irritation in the lungs typically associated with respiratory distress and swelling from smoke inhalation (23).
Acai’s antioxidant properties may reduce smoke-induced swelling inside of your lungs.
Acai berries can boost your immune system. Acai berries have traditionally been used by indigenous peoples as a means to boost the immune system and avoid disease. Modern science has evaluated these claims and found some positive results.
One study found that acai berries were successful in reducing oxidative damage due to infection (24).
There are many different cells and functions involved in a healthy immune system. Acai was noted to increase the phagocytic capacity of immune cells which leads to faster recovery (25).
When given directly to people, acai also boosted the production of interleukin 12 (IL-12) as well as myeloid cells, a type of white blood cells which ensure your immune system is healthy (26).
Acai berries can help fight off aging. Cellular health is a fairly general concept but plays a large role in overall health, specifically with aging (27).
Free radical cells are known to cause poor cellular health throughout the body (28).
The large amount of antioxidants found in acai berries is useful in combating the effects of free radicals (29).
Acai berries help improve skin health. Native Brazilians have used acai berries as a means of promoting skin health for many years. Specifically, the pulp of the berry has been shown to aid in skin health (30).
Extremely high in many forms of phytochemicals, acai berries may slow or reverse aging processes as they relate to oxidative damage (31).
In fact, the berries are one of the best sources of antioxidants; acai berries have ten times as many antioxidants as grapes and twice as many as blueberries.
Acai berries can help libido in men. Although not an aphrodisiac per se, this famous purple berry is linked to overall increased blood circulation in the human body, a phenomenon that may contribute to a boost in sex drive, especially for men.
When overweight men consumed an acai smoothie, it led to improved vascular function, which is a characteristic of how blood flows through the body’s blood vessels (32)
Acai berries can help improve physical performance. Many athletes from Brazil have consumed acai berries for many years and reported performance-enhancing benefits. A study using high-level athletes who drank an acai smoothie before a bout of exercise found that those who drank the smoothie took longer to reach exhaustion, had a lower perceived level of effort and enhanced cardiorespiratory responses (33).
Only one study to date has examined these claims but the effects are prominent, and further research is warranted.
Acai berries can improve cardiovascular function. Acai berries may play a role in improving overall cardiovascular function even in unhealthy people. Obese men who were given acai berry drinks were observed to have increased vascular health and thus lower risks of heart attacks or other cardiovascular events (34).
Very large doses of acai might affect the results of MRI scans. If you are going to have an MRI test, it is important to let the doctor know if you have been eating acai berries.
Eating too many acai berries can increase bleeding and blood pressure.
The safety of acai berries during pregnancy or breastfeeding is unknown. Acai might not be suitable for cancer patients. The powerful antioxidant activity of acai compounds can interfere with chemotherapy drug actions and, therefore cancer patients should avoid acai berry products if you’re taking these medications.
Acai berry can also cause IBS like symptoms in certain individuals.
It’s important to be wary of the quality of the acai berry or acai product you are consuming, as many acai drinks have large amounts of added sugar.
Typical servings are between 100-200g. However, since acai is a natural food product, there is no real recommended dosage.
Outside of South America, it can be difficult to find authentic, fresh acai berries. They are available in smoothie or powder forms.
To date, no studies have evaluated any dose-dependent relationships with acai.
Can too much acai berry be harmful? Eating too many acai berries can increase bleeding and blood pressure.
What is the best way to consume acai? The best way is to eat the whole fruit, as nature intended. If you can’t do that, extracts and juices are fine – just be aware of the sugar content.
Is acai berry good for your skin? One of the main skin and hair benefits of acai berries is the antioxidants which are known to be an aging beauty’s partner in crime. It’s rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E, so it’s going to revive your skin, heal damaged skin cells, and restore moisture.
Is acai good for hair growth? To prevent hair from falling out, we need to have a healthy scalp. Moreover, to have a healthy scalp, we need a sufficient amount of essential fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins in our system. Acai berries have these and more. Rich in Omega 3, 6, and 9 as well as vitamins B, C, and E
Is acai good for acne? Packed with Vitamins A, B, C, and E, acai berries are a great food to help prevent wrinkles, fine lines, and dryness on the face. They are also brimming with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that are perfect for fighting acne.
Do acai berries make you poop? Acai berries are also bursting with fiber, and fiber gets your system rocking and rolling. The more fiber you eat, the more your bowels move.
Are acai berries and blueberries the same? No, they are different fruits.
Do acai berries have sugar? Acai berries themselves resemble grapes and are actually quite low in sugar, containing close to 0 grams per 100-gram serving.
Is acai a protein? Fruit is an unlikely source of protein, but this berry may just make the perfect post-workout meal combination. Acai berries contain a generous amount of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
Acai berries are an ancient superfood used by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon Rainforest for hundreds of years. Studies show benefits of immune system boosting, cancer prevention, cellular health, heart health, and cognitive function have all been validated by modern science.
Acai may even play a role in enhanced athletic performance. Oftentimes conventional wisdom of ancient people is ahead of modern science and thus has been the case for the acai berry.