I love açai: story of a superfood between science and fashiofood

It was 2005. The hugely popular Oprah Winfrey, on her equally famous talk show, invited the famous American dermatologist Dr Nicholas Perricone. In his interwiev, he began to talk about his superfoods and the best antiaging. In the first place it positioned the açai, its antioxidant and slimming properties and boom boom decanted. The market goes crazy, the whole world wants the açai. [1]

Açai berries are the fruits of the açai palm tree that grows in the tropical microclimate of the rainforest. Its fruits are purple-brown in color and reach about 2 cm in diameter, growing in clusters. The botanical name is Euterpe oleracea but it is called in indigenous language «wasa’i», which is crying. In fact, looking at these branches it looks like the palm cries.

Its origin dates back to the pre-Columbian era. In indigenous medicine every part of the fruit and palm has its own specific function.

 

The acai oil is used to limit diarrhea, the infusion of roots for jaundice

the infusion of fruits for skin ulcers, the seeds of ground fruits are used to lower fever.

In Peruvian Amazonia, roasted and ground seeds are used for liver disorders, hair loss, menstrual disorders and muscle pains. [2]

For obvious logistical reasons, the fresh fruit is consumed on the spot and the palm hardly grows away from this microclimate.

Foodfashion

In the 80s, the açai na tigela, a sorbet based on berry pulp consumed on a large scale in the sports population of surfers, volleyball and beach tennis players, began to spread in Brazilian beaches.

The original recipe involves the mix of the açai fruits with half a banana, sweetened with agave syrup and often accompanied by guarana (an adaptogenic energizing herb typical of the area). Its sweet taste, mixed between red fruits and chocolate, makes it particularly inviting and tasty.

 

From that moment, therefore, the exports of açai began. Today it can be found in the form of:

  • powder: to be added to smoothies and yogurt
  • transformed into juice and sold in distribution,
  • or in frozen pulp.

Biochemistry

The biochemical profile shows a very high content of polyphenols and above all anthocyanins (typical of red-violet fruits) that have a powerful antioxidant effect. [3]

They are produced by the plants themselves to defend themselves from other microorganisms. They work by responding to oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals by donating an electron or a hydrogen atom. [4] Free radicals are constantly produced by our body and are comparable to pinball balls. They go crazy along the blood vessels causing small lesions every time they collide with the vessel wall or the membrane of a cell. In this way they induce the formation of inflammatory prostaglandins which favor the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory diseases. By neutralizing these crazy fillers, antioxidants reduce the risk of these chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammatory disorders and degenerative diseases. [5], [6] It also seems that they induce the formation of hydrogen peroxide which can regulate the immune response. The study of pharmacokinetic models suggests that there are different ways of absorbing and activating this molecule that can explain the sometimes contradictory and non-gutted effects present in the literature. [7]

 

In vivo and in vitro studies show that also the açai has this marked anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and proapoptotic action [8]; this makes these small fruits, real phyto-drugs.

But they are not the only ones, and as polyphenol content there are other foods within our reach that can perform the same function: raw cocoa, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, strawberries, cloves, star anise, red wine and coffee (9 )

The açai therefore deserves all the reputation of a superfood and if you are in Copacabana you would probably do well to make it a good feast. BUT – why is there a ma- worth taking pills and pre-packaged fruit juices at any cost? Does supplementation fulfill the role of the fruit? Sorry I have a form of aversion to shortcuts and I consider it important to consider taking food and / or ipso. The benefits of each food are linked to the different molecular components that constitute it and that find a balance through absorption in the digestive tract and post-absorption metabolic activation.

Attention I am not saying that the açai berries are a superfood found fashionable, I’m saying that fashions often lead to speculation. I would eat açai na tigela every day, especially with this heat …

But we need to put some science and consciousness specialy while we are at the grocery shop.

 

Obrigada , com gratidão

[1] https://www.oprah.com/health/acai-dr-perricones-no-1-superfood

[2] An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Açai (Euterpe oleracea) by the Natural Standard Reserch Collaboration. Ulbrict C. J of dietary Supplements 2012

[3] Classification of fruits based on anthocyanin types and relevance to their health effects . Fang J, J of Nutrition 2015

[4] Chemistry and biochemistry of Dietary Polyphenols. Tsao R, Nutrients 2010

[5] Reducing the risk of cancer . Milner JA, Functional foods: Designer foods, pharmafoods nutraceuticals 1994

[6] Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, Duthie GG, Functional foods: Designer foods, pharmafoods nutraceuticals 1994

[7] Role of polypnenols in human health and food Systems:a  mini review, Cory H, Front Nutr 2018

[8] Anticancer potential, molecular mechanism and toxicity of Euterpe oleracea extract (acai): a systematic review, Perini JA, Plos One 2018

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