Washington, October 7 : A Brazilian palm berry called "acai" (pronounced ah-sigh-EE), known to contain numerous antioxidants, has proven its ability to be absorbed in the human body when consumed both as juice and pulp, say researchers.
Texas AgriLife Research scientists say that though the berry is heavily marketed in the U.S. as a health food, little research has been done on it.
The researchers say that their findings point to the need for continued research on the berry which is commonly used in juices, beverages, smoothies, frozen treats and dietary supplements.
"Acai is naturally low in sugar, and the flavor is described as a mixture of red wine and chocolate, so what more would you want from a fruit?" said lead investigator Dr. Susanne Talcott.
Talcott, who also is assistant professor with the Texas A and M University's nutrition and food science department, insists that this is for the first time that a team of researchers has "really tested to see if acai antioxidants are absorbed in humans."
Her husband Dr. Steve Talcott said that the researchers "(now) need to determine potential disease-fighting health benefits, so we can make intelligent recommendations on how much acai should be consumed."
During the study, healthy volunteers were given acai pulp and acai juice containing half the concentration of anthocyanins as the pulp, and each compared to the control foods: applesauce and a non-antioxidant beverage.
Susanne said that blood and urine samples at 12 and 24 hours after consumption showed significant increases in antioxidant activity in the blood after both the acai pulp and applesauce consumption.
Both acai pulp and acai juice showed significant absorption of antioxidant anthocyanins into the blood and antioxidant effects, she added.
The research couple hope that their future studies would help determine whether the consumption of acai could result in any disease-preventing health benefit, and the proper serving sizes for a beneficial dose for people.
"Our concern has been that it is sold as a super food - and it definitely has some good attributes - but it is not a solution to all diseases. There are a great number of foods on the market, and this could just be part of a well-balanced diet," she said.