The Free-radical Scavenging Acai Berry

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A lot of research has been done about the acai berry and its health benefits. Acai berries are a rich source of anthocyanins and other phenolics and phytonutrients. Anthocyanins are compounds that have potent antioxidant activity. They help in the neutralization of potentially harmful free radicals. You may know that the now famous research regarding the “French Paradox” tags anthocyanins as being the antioxidants that protect the French from heart disease. The French are known to consume large amounts of coffee, nicotine, sugar, white flour, cheese and saturated fats, yet they have a very low rate of heart disease compared to other countries like England and Denmark. It is the anthocyanins in the grapes used to make red wine that are believed to be responsible for the very low incidence of heart disease in France.

Now consider this: while red wine has good quantities of anthocyanins, the acai berry has been shown to contain many times the anthocyanin levels of red wine — and you don’t have to consume any alcohol.

What does it mean when anthocyanins neutralize free radicals? It means that the acai berry may actually be able to maintain the healthy function of a number of systems and organs in your body. Some of the anthocyanins that have been found in acai include two substances with long names: cyanidin-3-glucoside and cyanidin-3-glucoside- coumarate. Other phenolics include catechin and epi- catechin (you might remember these names, as they are the same compounds found in green tea), quercetin and other flavonoids.

It is likely that the combined effects of these compounds, as they are uniquely found in Acai fruit, are responsible for its potent antioxidant activities.

In one clinical trial performed at the Natural and Medicinal Products Research facility in Washington, researchers attempted to determine the antioxidant capacity of acai berries. The research team already knew that acai berries exhibited a high antioxidant capacity in vitro, especially in the area of free radical scavenging. For their study, the research team investigated the antioxidant capacities of freeze-dried acai fruit pulp/skin powder. They found freeze-dried acai berries to have exceptional activity against superoxides (superoxides are compounds that destroy cells). In fact, the findings showed that acai berries had the highest activity of any food reported to date against the peroxyl radical. And, in general, the free radical “scavenging” of acai was recorded at 1,614 units/g — a rate, the researchers said, that was by far the highest of any fruit or vegetable tested to da! te!

You may be able to find acai products that are freeze-dried. This may be an option for you if you are looking for a way to add acai berries to your diet. Freeze-drying a powder concentrate has been shown to maintain the integrity of the original acai fruit. Freeze-drying means the manufacturing process does not interfere with the beneficial properties of
the fruit. It also means that pasteurization and preservatives won’t be used to give the product a long shelf life at the grocery store.