Like other berries such as blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, acai berries are naturally rich in antioxidants. Research shows these plant-based compounds may help reduce cellular damage in the body that could eventually lead to chronic illnesses.
The densest source of these antioxidants are anthocyanins, which are the same compounds that give acai berries their rich color, explains Best. “Anthocyanins [provide] anti-inflammatory effects in the body, [and] may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” she says. “They also protect against free radical damage known as oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic and acute conditions.”
“More research is needed, but evidence suggests acai berries may promote heart health by improving cholesterol levels, have protective benefits for the brain, help prevent cancer, and improve blood sugar levels,” Nicolai says.
According to the NCCIH, antioxidants in acai berries may have these effects in humans. This could translate to numerous health benefits, including the following.
May Help Reduce Cancer Risk
Antioxidants help prevent cellular damage from free radicals, which can subsequently lead to cancer. According to Daily, the antioxidant profile of acai berries goes beyond anthocyanins. “Acai berries are also loaded with vitamin A and phytonutrients that help protect cells from damage,” she says.
Additionally, research in rodents suggests that acai may be useful as a complementary cancer treatment to reduce the growth of tumors. Human studies are needed to confirm such effects.
May Improve Cardiovascular Health
Studies have looked at the potential of antioxidant-rich foods like acai berries to play a role in fighting the inflammation that underlies cardiovascular diseases. One comparative study, for example, found that acai did as much to reverse high blood pressure and cardiac changes in rats with renovascular hypertension as an ACE inhibitor called enalapril.
May Offer Neuroprotection
The components of acai may also have brain-health benefits. In one study, acai supplements were found to mitigate Parkinson’s disease and slow its progression by way of anti-inflammatory effects on pathways in the brain that also reduced the loss of dopamine. (Parkinson’s is thought to occur when certain neurons in the brain become impaired or die, producing less dopamine, according to the National Institute on Aging.)
May Reduce Liver Inflammation
The anti-inflammatory effects of acai may also help with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, as suggested by research that found acai improved blood lipids and overall liver health in rodents after 10 weeks. That said, additional studies on human are needed to determine whether acai may directly treat any liver disease.