Açaí berries have been found to be rich sources of a number of essential nutrients, including calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc, and even contain significant amounts of copper and manganese. Not only do many of these minerals help facilitate the activity of enzymes that produce neurotransmitters and long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, scientists have now found that açaí protects the brain against oxidative damage, which may make it useful for staving off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Açaí berries contain considerable levels of anthocyanins, compounds associated with improved cardiovascular health, visual health, and overall antioxidant capacity. This Amazonian superfood (Euterpe oleraceae Mart.) also exerts significant anti-inflammatory effects and in a new study was found to protect brain cells from Beta-amyloid damage. In fact, açaí was more effective in inhibiting ß-amyloid aggregation than gallic acid, cyanidin rutinoside and cyanidin glucoside, other potent neuroprotective agents (Wong et al., 2013).
Açaí – Lowering Cholesterol and Fighting Alzheimer's Disease
Açaí pulp has also been seen to improve blood cholesterol status in animals, reducing the production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the liver, increasing the production of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and increasing the excretion of LDL cholesterol (de Souza et al., 2012). Such changes help protect the arteries from atherosclerosis and, as cholesterol facilitates the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, açaí may even protect the brain against forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. The anthocyanins found in these potent purple berries have even been seen to protect against some of the nervous system complications of diabetes, in addition to actually helping with blood glucose regulation. These brain-boosting berries also have the benefit of being downright delicious, with a slightly chocolaty flavour. An açaí berry breakfast smoothie is a great way to start your day, then, allowing you to feel slightly indulgent while also supporting cognitive function and overall health. For more information on this fantastic superfood check out Açaí Berry Supreme, with added antioxidants from red grape juice and pomegranate!
Matsuzaki, K. (2014). How Do Membranes Initiate Alzheimer's Disease? Formation of Toxic Amyloid Fibrils by the Amyloid ß-Protein on Ganglioside Clusters. Acc Chem Res. Aug 19;47(8):2397-404.< da Silva Santos, V., et al., (2014). Açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.): a tropical fruit with high levels of essential minerals-especially manganese-and its contribution as a source of natural mineral supplementation. J Toxicol Environ Health A, 77(1-3):80-9. da Silva Santos, V., et al., (2014). Anthocyanin-rich açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) extract attenuates manganese-induced oxidative stress in rat primary astrocyte cultures. J Toxicol Environ Health A, 77(7):390-404. de Souza, M.O., et al., (2012). The hypocholesterolemic activity of açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) is mediated by the enhanced expression of the ATP-binding cassette, subfamily G transporters 5 and 8 and low-density lipoprotein receptor genes in the rat. Nutr Res, Dec;32(12):976-84. Wong, D.Y., et al. (2013). Açaí (Euterpe oleraceae Mart.) berry extract exerts neuroprotective effects against ß-amyloid exposure in vitro. Neurosci Lett. 2013 Nov 27;556:221-6.
Caution Açaí juice contains considerable amounts of manganese, a mineral that is necessary for good health but which accumulates in some nerve cells where it is associated with neurotoxicty (da Silva et al., 2014). Excess manganese can also inhibit iron absorption. Caution is advised over excess intake of açaí, especially by children and anyone with iron deficiency anaemia.