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Acai is high in manganese, but other components of the fruit appear to keep the mineral at nutritional levels.
Earlier this year, Brazilian researchers uncovered significant quantities of minerals in acai purée-including manganese content so high that it might be reason for concern. But a new cellular study by some of the same researchers suggests that the anthocyanins in acai actually keep manganese in check.
Because manganese accumulates in brain cells called astrocytes, researchers applied magnesium chloride to these particular cells. As expected, manganese exposure induced oxidation on the astrocytes, but the addition of acai extract had an antioxidant effect. Previous studied have confirmed acai’s antioxidant capacity, but this extract in particular was standardized for anthocyanins. It’s these particular compounds that researchers believe are some of the most effective antioxidants in acai.
Acai extract was effective at a concentration of 0.1 µg/ml, and a higher concentration of 1.0 µg/ml did not appear useful. Extrapolating from this, the researchers concluded that acai could be effective against manganese neurotoxicity, but only in “nutritionally relevant” amounts and not overly high doses. The dosing distinction is a source for debate against the results of their previous study, which utilized 300-ml of acai purée intake daily-an amount that critics argue is wildly expensive and not practical for the average person who lives where acai is not locally grown.
“Acai has been studied for over 18 years at numerous government and university research centers, including at the USDA National Nutrition Center on Aging and the National Center on Aging at NIH,” says Alexander Schauss, PhD, acai researcher and senior research director for AIBMR Life Sciences Inc. (Puyallup, WA). “These studies have not found any evidence that acai would increase the risk of any neurodegenerative disease.”