Acai Juice May Combat Atherosclerosis and Help Cholesterol

Summary
Atherosclerosis is a disorder in which fat gets deposited in the blood vessels causing them to harden. It blocks the flow of blood, and is responsible for coronary artery disease. Mice with a certain gene called apolipoprotein E deficient (ApoE) gene are more prone to develop atherosclerosis, as they have disordered cholesterol metabolism. These mice are commonly used for examining the role of various substances used to try to lessen atherosclerosis. The present study was conducted to understand the exact mechanism of the production of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects by açaí juice and to see if it could aid in stopping these fat deposits from hardening.

Introduction
Coronary artery disease is the major cause of death in the United States. Substances with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are known to reduce atherosclerosis and thereby decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Açaí is a type of palm tree that belongs to the family Arecaceae and grows in the flood plains of the Amazon River. Many of the earlier studies have shown the rich antioxidant capacity of açaí fruit, when used as a food ingredient with functional contributions to diet. This fruit is hence considered a superfruit. In the present study, researchers examined the mechanism of the production of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects by açaí fruits.

Methodology
* In the first part of the experiment, 15 mice were fed on açaí juice rich food and 15 other mice were fed on the usual diet for 20 weeks. After this, these animals were killed and tissue samples of white blood cells, blood and aorta were collected.
* Levels of certain chemicals such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and IL-6 were measured in white blood cells. Levels of various lipids were also noted. The amount of atherosclerosis produced in the aorta was also measured.
* In the second part of the experiment, similar feeding was done for 5 weeks. After killing the animals, antioxidant enzyme activity and expression of genes which produce pro-inflammatory factors (TNF and IL-6) were measured.

Results
* The levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, HDL) were high in açaí juice-fed mice. Analysis of aorta showed that the mean percentage of lesion areas in açaí juice-fed animals were 58 percent less than that in the normal diet-fed animals.
* Activity of antioxidant enzymes was markedly up in the açaí juice-fed mice.
* The results showed that “a diet containing an açaí juice at the dose of 5 percent developed significantly less atherosclerotic lesions in the mice model.”
* Açaí juice did not change body composition despite a significant gain in body weight, nor did it alter total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Shortcomings/next steps
The study has used the crude extract of açaí juice. It is important to identify the bioactive compound in açaí fruit that gives such an enormous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory property to the fruit. Some researchers have continued their study to identify the bioactive compounds in the açaí fruit juice that provides a protective effect against the development of atherosclerosis and to understand their fundamental mechanisms that can also be unraveled.

Conclusion
In the present study, researchers have provided experimental evidence of the protective capacity of açaí fruit against atherosclerosis. They have identified some of the mechanisms of imparting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. They have even measured the actual atherosclerosis produced in ApoE deficient mice and shown that it is significantly less in açaí juice-fed mice. This is a significant finding given that atherosclerosis is a major cause of death in the United States. Food items enriched with açaí juice must be consumed by at least those who have a high cholesterol level and are at a risk of developing atherosclerosis, which will lead to coronary artery disease.

For More Information:
Açaí Juice Attenuates Atherosclerosis in ApoE Deficient Mice through Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Activities
Publication Journal: Atherosclerosis, 2011
By Chenghui Xie; Jie Kang; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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