Physical Description

Type Information

Isotype for Euterpe cuatrecasana Dugand
Catalog Number: US 2771934
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): J. Cuatrecasas
Year Collected: 1944
Locality: Rio San Juan, Cercanias de Palestina., Chocó, Colombia, South America
Elevation (m): 5 to 50
  • Isotype: Dugand G., A. 1951. Revista Acad. Colomb. Ci. Exact. 8: 393.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Euterpe oleracea

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Euterpe oleracea

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Wikipedia

Açaí palm

The açaí palm (Portuguese: [aˌsaˈi] ( ), from Tupi-Guarani asaí;[2] Euterpe oleracea) is a species of palm tree in the genus Euterpe cultivated for its fruit and superior hearts of palm. Its name comes from the Portuguese adaptation of the Tupian word ïwaca'i, '[fruit that] cries or expels water'. Global demand for the fruit has expanded rapidly in recent years, and açaí is now cultivated for that purpose primarily. Euterpe edulis (juçara) is a closely related species which is now the primary source of hearts of palm. [3]

Euterpe oleracea is native to Trinidad and northern South America, mainly in swamps and floodplains. Açaí palms are tall, slender palms growing upwards of 25+ meters (82 feet), with pinnate leaves up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) long.[4][1]

Harvesting and uses[edit]

Fruit[edit]

The fruit, commonly known as açaí berry,[5] is a small, round, black-purple drupe about 1 inch (25 mm) in circumference, similar in appearance to a grape, but smaller and with less pulp and produced in branched panicles of 500 to 900 fruits. The exocarp of the ripe fruits is a deep purple color, or green, depending on the kind of açaí and its maturity. The mesocarp is pulpy and thin, with a consistent thickness of 1 mm or less. It surrounds the voluminous and hard endocarp, which contains a single large seed about 0.25–0.40 inches (7–10 mm) in diameter. The seed makes up about 80% of the fruit (Schauss, 2006c). Two crops of fruit are produced each year. The fruits can be harvested and consumed.

A grove of Açaí palms in Brazil
Açaí palm
Serving of açaí pulp
Separation of açaí pulp from seeds in market Belém, Pará, Brazil

In a study of three traditional Caboclo populations in the Brazilian Amazon, açaí palm was described as the most important plant species because the fruit makes up a major component of their diet, up to 42% of the total food intake by weight.[6]

In 2005, an article published by Greenpeace International stated that “the tasty dark violet wine of açaí is the most important non-wood forest product in terms of money from the river delta of the Amazon.”[7] A 2008 Los Angeles Times article noted that while acai has been acclaimed by some sources as a renewable resource that can provide a sustainable livelihood for subsistence harvesters without damaging the Amazon Rainforest, conservationists worry that acai could succumb to the destructive agribusiness model of clear-cut lands, sprawling plantations, and liberal application of pesticides and fertilizer.[8] In May 2009, Bloomberg reported that the expanding popularity of açaí in the United States was "depriving Brazilian jungle dwellers of a protein-rich nutrient they’ve relied on for generations."[9] Although most açaí is grown conventionally, the US company Sambazon established USDA Organic certification for their açai palm plantations in 2003 and has also implemented fair trade certification.[10][better source needed]

Cultivars[edit]

Few named cultivars exist, and varieties differ mostly in the nature of the fruit:

  • 'Branco' is a rare variety local to the Amazon estuary in which the berries do not change color but remain green when ripe. This is believed to be due to a recessive gene since of 'Branco' palm seeds only about 30% mature to express this trait. It has less iron and fewer antioxidants but more oil, and many believe it to have a superior taste and digestability to purple açaí.[11]
  • 'BRS-Para Dwarf' was developed by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Agency. It grows to at most 5–7 meters tall, fruits sooner (3 years from seed), and produces a larger seed yielding 25% more fruit pulp than wild açaí.[12]

Other uses[edit]

Apart from the use of its fruit as food or beverage, the açaí palm has other commercial uses. Leaves may be made into hats, mats, baskets, brooms and roof thatch for homes, and trunk wood, resistant to pests, for building construction.[13] Tree trunks may be processed to yield minerals.[14] The palm heart is widely exploited as a delicacy.[15][16]

Comprising 80% of the fruit mass, açaí seeds may be ground for livestock food or as a component of organic soil for plants. Planted seeds are used for new palm tree stock, which, under the right growing conditions, can require months to form seedlings.[17] The seeds are a source of polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids.[13][18][19]

Nutritional content[edit]

A powdered preparation of freeze-dried açaí fruit pulp and skin was reported to contain (per 100 g of dry powder) 533.9 calories, 52.2 g carbohydrates, 8.1 g protein, and 32.5 g total fat. The carbohydrate portion included 44.2 g of dietary fiber and low sugar value (pulp is not sweet).[19] The powder was also shown to contain (per 100 g): negligible vitamin C, 260 mg calcium, 4.4 mg iron, and 1002 U vitamin A, as well as aspartic acid and glutamic acid; the amino acid content was 7.59% of total dry weight (versus 8.1% protein).

The fat content of açaí consists of oleic acid (56.2% of total fats), palmitic acid (24.1%), and linoleic acid (12.5%).[19] Açaí also contains beta-sitosterol (78–91% of total sterols).[19][20] The oil compartments in açaí fruit contain polyphenols such as procyanidin oligomers and vanillic acid, syringic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, protocatechuic acid, and ferulic acid, which were shown to degrade substantially during storage or exposure to heat.[21]

Food product[edit]

In the general consumer market, açaí is sold as frozen pulp, juice, or an ingredient in various products from beverages, including grain alcohol, smoothies, foods, cosmetics and supplements. In Brazil, it is commonly eaten as Açaí na tigela.

Dietary supplement[edit]

In 2004, it became popular to consume açaí as a supplement. The proliferation of various açaí supplement companies that misused celebrity names like Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray to promote açaí weight loss pills online.[22]

Marketers of these products make unfounded claims that açaí and its antioxidant qualities provide a variety of health benefits, none of which has scientific confirmation to date. False claims include reversal of diabetes and other chronic illnesses, as well as expanding size of the penis and increasing men's sexual virility.[23] As of April 2012, there are no scientifically controlled studies providing proof of any health benefits from consuming açaí. No açaí products have been evaluated by the FDA, and their efficacy is doubtful.[24] Specifically, there is no scientific evidence that açaí consumption affects body weight, promotes weight loss or has any positive health effect.[25]

According to the Washington, D.C. based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) thousands of consumers have had trouble stopping recurrent charges on their credit cards when they cancel free trials of açai-based products.[26][27] Even some web sites purporting to warn about açai-related scams are themselves perpetrating scams.[25]

In late 2008, lawyers for The Oprah Winfrey Show began investigating statements from supplement manufacturers who alleged that frequent Oprah guest Dr. Mehmet Oz had recommended their product or açai in general for weight loss.[24]

One laboratory study found that commercially available açaí powder added to the diet of fruit flies lengthened their lives when challenged by chemical or genetic oxidative stress.[28] Dietary açaí also restored the flies' circadian rhythm disturbed by the herbicide paraquat.

Polyphenols and antioxidant activity in vitro[edit]

A comparative analysis from in vitro studies reported that açaí has intermediate polyphenol content and antioxidant potency among 11 varieties of frozen juice pulps, scoring lower than acerola, mango, strawberry, and grapes.[29]

A powdered preparation of freeze-dried açaí fruit pulp and skin was shown to contain cyanidin 3-O-glucoside and cyanidin 3-O-rutinoside as major anthocyanins;[30] (3.19 mg/g) however, anthocyanins accounted for only about 10% of the overall antioxidant capacity in vitro.[31] The powdered preparation was also reported to contain twelve flavonoid-like compounds, including homoorientin, orientin, taxifolin deoxyhexose, isovitexin, scoparin, as well as proanthocyanidins (12.89 mg/g), and low levels of resveratrol (1.1 μg/g).[19] A study on another different freeze-dried açaí product reported that the formulation contained much lower levels of anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and other phenolic compounds as compared with blueberries and other polyphenol-rich fruits.[32]

In an in vitro study of different açaí varieties for their antioxidant capacity, a white one displayed no antioxidant activity against different oxygen radicals, whereas the purple variety most often used commercially had antioxidant activity against peroxyl radicals and to a lesser extent peroxynitrite but little activity against hydroxyl radicals.[31]

Freeze-dried açaí powder was found to have antioxidant activity in vitro against superoxide and peroxyl radicals, and mild activity for peroxynitrite and hydroxyl radicals.[32] The powder was reported to inhibit hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidation in neutrophils, and to have a slight stimulatory effect on the reactive radical, nitric oxide.[33]

Extracts of açaí seeds were reported to have antioxidant capacity in vitro against peroxyl radicals, similar to the antioxidant capacity of the pulp, with higher antioxidant capacity against peroxynitrite and hydroxyl radicals.[34]

The anthocyanins of fruit likely have relevance to antioxidant capacity only in the plant's natural defensive mechanisms[35] and in vitro.[36] The Linus Pauling Institute and European Food Safety Authority state that dietary anthocyanins and other flavonoids have little or no direct antioxidant food value following digestion.[37][38][39] Unlike controlled test tube conditions, the fate of anthocyanins in vivo shows they are poorly conserved (less than 5%), with most of what is absorbed existing as chemically modified metabolites destined for rapid excretion.[40]

When the entire scientific literature to date and putative health claims of açaí are assessed, experts concluded in 2011 that the fruit is more a phenomenon of Internet marketing than of scientific substance.[41][42]

Juice blend studies[edit]

Various studies have been conducted that analyze the antioxidant capacity of açaí juice blends to pure fruit juices or fruit pulp. Açaí juice blends contain an undisclosed percentage of açaí.

When three commercially available juice mixes containing unspecified percentages of açaí juice were compared for in vitro antioxidant capacity against red wine, tea, six types of pure fruit juice, and pomegranate juice, the average antioxidant capacity was ranked lower than that of pomegranate juice, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice, and red wine. The average was roughly equivalent to that of black cherry or cranberry juice, and was higher than that of orange juice, apple juice, and tea.[43]

The medical watchdog website Quackwatch noted that "açaí juice has only middling levels of antioxidants — less than that of Concord grape, blueberry, and black cherry juices, but more than cranberry, orange, and apple juices." The extent to which polyphenols as dietary antioxidants may promote health is unknown, as no credible evidence indicates any antioxidant role for polyphenols in vivo.[44][45]

Other uses[edit]

Orally administered açaí has been tested as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging of the gastrointestinal system.[46] Its anthocyanins have also been characterized for stability as a natural food coloring agent.[47]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ açai: definition of açai in Oxford dictionary - American English (US)
  3. ^ Eloy, S.R.S. (June 4, 2000). "Genetic differentiation of Euterpe edulis Mart. populations estimated by AFLP analysis" (PDF). Molecular Ecology 9: 1754. doi:10.1046/j.1365-294x.2000.01056.x. Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Euterpe oleracea". "Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations". Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  5. ^ Marcason, W. (2009). "What is the Açaí Berry and Are There Health Benefits?". Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109 (11): 1968–1910. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2009.09.017. PMID 19857637.  edit
  6. ^ *Murrieta RSS, Dufour DL, Siqueira AD (1999). "Food consumption and subsistence in three Caboclo populations on Marajo Island, Amazonia, Brazil". Human Ecology 27: 455–75. doi:10.1023/A:1018779624490. 
  7. ^ "Amazon Case Study". Retrieved 16 September 2005. 
  8. ^ McDonnell, Patrick J. (21 September 2008). "Humble Berry Now a Global Superfood". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA). 
  9. ^ "‘Superfood’ Promoted on Oprah’s Site Robs Amazon Poor of Staple". Bloomberg. 14 May 2009. Retrieved 30 Dec 2009. 
  10. ^ Engels, Gayle (2010). "Açaí". HerbalGram, American Botanical Council 86: 1–2. 
  11. ^ http://environment.yale.edu/tri/uploads/Ashley-DuVal.pdf
  12. ^ MB Palms Home | Palms and Cycads of the World | Rare Palm Seedlings | Rare Palm Seeds
  13. ^ a b Silva, S. & Tassara, H. (2005). Fruit Brazil Fruit. São Paulo, Brazil, Empresa das Artes
  14. ^ Dyer, A. P. 1996. Latent energy in Euterpe oleracea. Biomass Energy Environ., Proc. Bioenergy Conf. 9th.
  15. ^ "Acai benefits". Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Açaí Fruit". Archived from the original on 29 March 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  17. ^ "Acai cultivation". Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  18. ^ Plotkin MJ, Balick MJ (Apr 1984). "Medicinal uses of South American palms". J Ethnopharmacol 10 (2): 157–79. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(84)90001-1. PMID 6727398. 
  19. ^ a b c d e Schauss AG, Wu X, Prior RL, Ou B, Patel D, Huang D, Kababick JP (2006). "Phytochemical and nutrient composition of the freeze-dried amazonian palmberry, Euterpe oleraceae Mart. (acai)". J Agric Food Chem 54 (22): 8598–603. doi:10.1021/jf060976g. PMID 17061839. 
  20. ^ Lubrano C, Robin JR, Khaiat A (1994). "Fatty-acid, sterol and tocopherol composition of oil from the fruit mesocarp of 6 palm species in French-Guiana". Oleagineux 49: 59–6. 
  21. ^ Pacheco-Palencia LA, Mertens-Talcott S, Talcott ST (Jun 2008). "Chemical composition, antioxidant properties, and thermal stability of a phytochemical enriched oil from Açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.)". J Agric Food Chem. 56 (12): 4631–6. doi:10.1021/jf800161u. PMID 18522407. 
  22. ^ Ellin, Abbey (12 March 2009). "Pressing Açaí for Answers". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ "Reality check"
  24. ^ a b James, SD (2008-12-12). "'Superfood' Açaí May not Be Worth Price: Oprah's Dr. Oz Says Açai Is Healthy but No Cure-all; Dieter Feels Ripped Off". ABC News. Archived from the original on 19 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  25. ^ a b Center for Science in the Public Interest (2009-03-23). "CSPI Warns Consumers about Web-Based Açai Scams". CSPI. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  26. ^ "Oprah is coming after bad Internet Marketers". Adotas. 
  27. ^ "AG warns about deceptive weight loss supplement offer". King5 News. Retrieved 9 September 2009. [dead link]
  28. ^ Vrailas-Mortimer A, Gomez R, Dowse H, Sanyal S (2012). "A survey of the protective effects of some commercially available antioxidant supplements in genetically and chemically induced models of oxidative stress in Drosophila melanogaster". Exp Gerontol 47 (9): 712–22. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2012.06.016. PMID 22790021. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Kuskoski EM, Asuero AG, Morales MT, Fett R (2006). "Wild fruits and pulps of frozen fruits: antioxidant activity, polyphenols and anthocyanins". Cienc Rural 36 (4 (July/Aug)). doi:10.1590/S0103-84782006000400037. 
  30. ^ Polyphenolic Constituents of Fruit Pulp of Euterpe oleracea Mart. (Açai palm). S. Gallori, A. R. Bilia, M. C. Bergonzi, W. L. R. Barbosa and F. F. Vincieri, Chromatographia, 2004, Volume 59, Numbers 11-12, pages 739-743, doi:10.1365/s10337-004-0305-x
  31. ^ a b Lichtenthäler R, Rodrigues RB, Maia JG, Papagiannopoulos M, Fabricius H, Marx F (Feb 2005). "Total oxidant scavenging capacities of Euterpe oleracea Mart. (Açaí) fruits". Int J Food Sci Nutr 56 (1): 53–64. doi:10.1080/09637480500082082. PMID 16019315. 
  32. ^ a b Schauss A.G., Wu X., Prior R.L., Ou B., Huang D., Owens J., Agarwal A., Jensen G.S., Hart A.N., Shanbrom E. (2006). "Antioxidant capacity and other bioactivities of the freeze-dried amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae Mart. (acai)". J Agric Food Chem 54 (22): 8604–10. doi:10.1021/jf0609779. PMID 17061840. 
  33. ^ Alexander G.Schauss et al. "Antioxidant Capacity and Other Bioactivities of the Freeze-Dried Amazonian Palm Berry, Euterpe oleraceae Mart. (Acai)", J. Agric. Food Chem. 54(2006)8604–8610. downloaded 20 November 2010, from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/jf0609779
  34. ^ Rodrigues RB, Lichtenthäler R, Zimmermann BF, et al. (Jun 2006). "Total oxidant scavenging capacity of Euterpe oleracea Mart. (açaí) seeds and identification of their polyphenolic compounds". J Agric Food Chem. 54 (12): 4162–7. doi:10.1021/jf058169p. PMID 16756342. 
  35. ^ Simon PW (1996). "Plant Pigments for Color and Nutrition". Vegetable Crops Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. 
  36. ^ De Rosso VV, Morán Vieyra FE, Mercadante AZ, Borsarelli CD (October 2008). "Singlet oxygen quenching by anthocyanin's flavylium cations". Free Radical Research 42 (10): 885–91. doi:10.1080/10715760802506349. PMID 18985487. 
  37. ^ Lotito SB, Frei B (2006). "Consumption of flavonoid-rich foods and increased plasma antioxidant capacity in humans: cause, consequence, or epiphenomenon?". Free Radic. Biol. Med. 41 (12): 1727–46. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2006.04.033. PMID 17157175. 
  38. ^ Williams RJ, Spencer JP, Rice-Evans C (April 2004). "Flavonoids: antioxidants or signalling molecules?". Free Radical Biology & Medicine 36 (7): 838–49. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2004.01.001. PMID 15019969. 
  39. ^ Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to various food(s)/food constituent(s) and protection of cells from premature aging, antioxidant activity, antioxidant content and antioxidant properties, and protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/20061, EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA)2, 3 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy, EFSA Journal 2010; 8(2):1489
  40. ^ "Studies force new view on biology of flavonoids", by David Stauth, EurekAlert!. Adapted from a news release issued by Oregon State University
  41. ^ Heinrich M, Dhanjia T, Casselman I (2011). "Açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) — A phytochemical and pharmacological assessment of the species’ health claims". Phytochem Lett 4 (3): 10–21. doi:10.1016/j.phytol.2010.11.005. 
  42. ^ "‘Insufficient and unconvincing’ scientific evidence to promote acai, says review". NutraIngredients-USA.com, 16 Mar 2011. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  43. ^ Seeram NP, Aviram M, Zhang Y, et al. (Feb 2008). "Comparison of antioxidant potency of commonly consumed polyphenol-rich beverages in the United States". J Agric Food Chem. 56 (4): 1415–22. doi:10.1021/jf073035s. PMID 18220345. 
    Reprint at Pom Wonderful
  44. ^ Williams RJ, Spencer JP, Rice-Evans C (April 2004). "Flavonoids: antioxidants or signalling molecules?". Free Radical Biology & Medicine 36 (7): 838–49. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2004.01.001. PMID 15019969. 
  45. ^ Frei B. "Controversy: What are the true biological functions of superfruit antioxidants?". Natural Products Information Center. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  46. ^ Córdova-Fraga T, de Araujo DB, Sanchez TA, et al. (Apr 2004). "Euterpe Olerácea (Açaí) as an alternative oral contrast agent in MRI of the gastrointestinal system: preliminary results". Magn Reson Imaging 22 (3): 389–93. doi:10.1016/j.mri.2004.01.018. PMID 15062934. 
  47. ^ Del Pozo-Insfran D, Brenes CH, Talcott ST (Mar 2004). "Phytochemical composition and pigment stability of Açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.)". J Agric Food Chem. 52 (6): 1539–45. doi:10.1021/jf035189n. PMID 15030208. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Craft P, Riffle RL (2003). An encyclopedia of cultivated palms. Portland, Oregon, United States: Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-558-6. 
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