The decline in function
associated with normal aging closely mimics the effects of immobilization and inactivity. The ability to maintain daily exercise involving moderate physical activity can dramatically slow the decline in function.1,2
The importance of maintaining mobility is illustrated by a decade-long prospective study of the elderly that found a decline in maximal oxygen consumption of 12% in 1 decade compared with age-matched runners, who experienced only a 5.5% decline.3
Maintaining higher levels of flexibility, mobility, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity not only contributes to healthy aging but also preserves independent functioning of daily activities.
Several mechanisms are involved, and each may be supported by dietary components for healthier aging with a better quality of life. These mechanisms include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support, pain reduction by analgesic effects, and direct effects on gene expression. Berry polyphenols have been implemented to affect all 3 mechanisms,4–7
and consumption of certain berries therefore receives special attention as dietary support for healthy aging.
The Amazonian fruit açai (Euterpe oleracea
Mart.) has been studied extensively for its nutritional and phytochemical composition and been found to contain compounds with potent anti-inflammatory8–10
and antioxidant properties.11
Recent bioactivity studies of the compounds in açai pulp have revealed a group of polyphenolic flavonoids that could enter the cytosol and reduce oxidative damage associated with inflammation within the cell.9,10
Because açai-rich juice contains a range of fruits and berries, with açai pulp the predominant ingredient, it would be rich in flavonoids with strong antioxidant activities and anti-inflammatory properties. This was confirmed by purifying compounds in the pulp and the juice and demonstrating that specific polyphenol compounds trigger a reduction in the production of reactive oxygen species and exhibit potent anti-inflammatory effects seen at even the lowest dose tested.12
Chrysoerial, a flavone, purified from the pulp, exhibited these properties in human polymorphonuclear cells, along with many aglycone polyphenolics. Other isolated antioxidant compounds, including luteolin, quercetin, and dihydrokaempferol, had the capacity to enter live cells and protect them from oxidative damage by using the cell-based antioxidant protection in erythrocytes (CAP-e) bioassay.12
The in vitro
evidence for the potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of açai pulp is further supported by studies in humans.13
Two studies, including a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, reported significant reductions in lipid peroxidation and increased free radical scavenging in vivo
when healthy participants age 19–52 years were fed an açai pulp–rich juice.10
Consumption of a single acute dose of 4 ounces of an açai-rich juice resulted in a rapid increase in antioxidant activity in the serum, as measured by the CAP-e assay. This increased serum antioxidant activity translated into positive downstream consequences, as measured by a reduction in lipid peroxidation within 2 hours after consumption of the açai juice blend.
Pain is a sensory measure and is subjective in nature, but it has a molecular basis involving synaptic activity and release of neurotransmitters. When pain reduces mobility of critical joints, inflammatory molecules that mitigate the pain or initiate repair build up. Analgesic (pain-reducing) effects involve direct effects on signal transduction (nociception) in the nerve system, as well as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme inhibitors that lead to reduced levels of prostaglandins; this results in a combined pain-reducing effect and an anti-inflammatory effect. Some berries contain antinociceptive compounds, which may be linked to COX-2 inhibition.4–7
Açai contains COX-2–inhibiting compounds,9
which may suggest a potential antinociceptive effect.
Direct effects of açai pulp as a food ingredient on expression of genes involved in pain, resistance to oxidative stress, and metabolism was studied in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster
The life extension results from açai pulp were found to be due in part to activation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase signaling pathway,14
which is involved in many conditions, such as diabetes, neurodegeneration, liver disease, and pain.17
Given the combined antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potentially antinociceptive properties of açai juice and pulp seen in vitro
and in vivo,
we sought to conduct a pilot study in humans with chronic pain and underlying inflammatory issues. Subsequently, we reviewed numerous case reports on the ability of an unclarified/unfiltered juice enriched with the pulp of açai and fruit concentrates to improve range of motion (ROM) and reduce pain. The test product for this study was MonaVie Active®
(MonaVie LLC, South Jordan, UT, USA), a fruit- and berry-based juice blend with a high level of polyphenolic compounds that exhibit strong antioxidant properties. These properties stem from the predominance of açai pulp in the formulation; pulp of this fruit has been shown to have high superoxide and peroxyl radical scavenging capacities in vitro
. The juice has also been extensively studied for safety and thus is suitable for study in humans.18
This open-label pilot study of anti-inflammatory effects was conducted in older adults with some degree of chronic joint pain that affected ROM. The objective was to see whether consuming MonaVie Active twice daily over 12 weeks would affect ROM, perceived pain, antioxidant status, and inflammatory markers.