BACKGROUND: Açai (Euterpe oleracea) is a polyphenol-rich fruit marketed as beneficial for health. Experimental data showing improvements in health markers arising from açai consumption in humans is limited.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of the present study was to investigate the effect of açai consumption on acute changes in vascular function and on other disease risk markers, including postprandial plasma insulin, glucose, and oxidative stress.
DESIGN: Twenty-three healthy male volunteers, aged 30-65 y and with a body mass index (in kg/m2) of 25-30, completed a randomized, controlled, high-fat challenge, double-blind, crossover, acute dietary intervention trial. The volunteers consumed either an açai-based smoothie (AS) or a macronutrient-matched control smoothie (PS) together with a high-fat breakfast meal challenge. The primary endpoint was the assessment of endothelial function in the brachial artery by flow-mediated dilatation (FMD).
RESULTS: The acute consumption of an AS containing 694 mg total phenolics improved vascular function, with postprandial increases in FMD from baseline of 1.4% at 2 h compared with 0.4% after consumption of the PS (P = 0.001) and increases at 6 h of 0.8% for the AS compared with -0.3% for the PS (P < 0.001). There was also a significantly lower incremental area under the curve (iAUC) for total peroxide oxidative status after açai consumption relative to the control. No significant changes were observed in blood pressure, heart rate, or postprandial glucose response. However, the first postprandial insulin peak (after breakfast) and the iAUC for insulin were elevated for the AS relative to the PS.
CONCLUSIONS: In this acute study in overweight men, açai consumption was associated with improvements in vascular function, which may lower the risk of a cardiovascular event. Future intervention studies, perhaps with a chronic design, in wider populations and with other biomarkers of disease risk are needed to fully elucidate the benefits of açai to health. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02292329.