We’re sure you've heard that the acai berry is a superfood... But what does that really mean? Well, what if we told you that the acai berry can improve fertility outcomes?
What makes acai berries so special?
Acai berries have quite a special nutrient profile and are rich in minerals, antioxidants, tannins, polyphenols, and anthocyanins. Specifically, they’re rich in zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, and chromium.
Not only that, but their anthocyanin content makes them a rich source of antioxidants. Acai berries are native to the tropical south and Central America and typically grow in regions near the equator.
What are antioxidants?:
An antioxidant is a natural substance that prevents and slows the production of free radicals.Free radicals are atoms in your body that are unstable, causing cellular damage. When your body is consumed with too many free radicals, your body has a hard time getting rid of them; your body goes under what is called oxidative stress. Free radicals may be caused by environmental pollutants, cigarette smoking, air pollutants, ozone, pesticides, radiation, and x-rays.
Oxidative stress is a phenomenon that is caused by an imbalance in the oxygen-reactive species that is produced and accumulated in the cells. When there is too much oxidative stress in the body, the body is unable to detoxify the reactive products that are accumulating in the body.
When this accumulation occurs, the body is more likely to develop chronic conditions such as autoimmune disorders, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative issues. In fact, there have been studies showing that people who ate few antioxidant-rich foods were at greater risk for developing chronic conditions.
This is where antioxidants come to the rescue. By doing so, antioxidants are able to neutralize the free radicals and limit damage made to the cells. Interestingly enough, your body actually makes antioxidants for this purpose, but typically not enough. In fact, there is evidence that acai berries actually protect your ovaries from damage.
What foods are high in antioxidants?
There are thousands of different types of antioxidants, including but not limited to lignans, phenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin c, and vitamin e. A lot of these antioxidants can naturally be found in plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and spices.
The specific antioxidants in these foods will depend on the color of the vegetable or fruit. For this reason, it is often recommended to diversify your diet with colorful fruits and veggies, so you provide your body with a range of antioxidants.
Why acai berries?
Many studies have been done on acai berries and have suggested that acai berries have more antioxidants than any other antioxidant-rich foods. The bioactive compounds found specifically in acai berries give them anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory, and cardiac protective properties.
Acai berries are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can in fact improve brain health and physical and behavioral development in infants, making them an essential nutrient during pregnancy.
There has been an ongoing study at CCRM, a clinic in Colorado that suggested women who had poor egg quality and going through in-vitro fertilization had improved outcomes after supplementing with Acai. Interestingly enough, oxidative stress has been shown to significantly reduce female egg quality and may contribute to ovarian dysfunction, which subsequently can negatively impact a woman’s fertility.
The study done at CCRM, conducted by Dr. Katz-Jaffe consisted of 42 participants, aged between 28 and 44 years old with a median age of 37 years ago. All 42 women were supplemented with acai for 3 months prior to ovarian stimulation. The study found that women ages 39 and older had a 75% live birth rate compared to women under the age of 39 with a 78% live birth rate.
The clinical research study thus far has resulted in 81% of the study participants achieving ongoing clinical pregnancies. This number is promising, considering the average in the U.S. for a 37-year-old woman is merely 37.8%. The study also found that the number of eggs retrieved went from 15.8 with 8.1 fertilized (previously failed cycle) to 20.6 with 11.5 fertilized eggs after supplementation with acai.
Dr. Katz also looked at the effect acai supplementation had on mice to assess the impact it had on a molecular level. This study suggested that there was an increase in the expression of antioxidant genes, increased antioxidant pathways, and decreased cell death.
The study compared young and aged mice, finding that aged mice had fewer oocytes and reduced blastocyst development. While after being treated with acai, the oocyte numbers in the old mice didn’t increase, the blastocyst formation did, but it also alleviated an aging-related decrease in implantation potential and increased ovarian ER stress.
It is suggested that acai supplementation helped upregulate NFR2 (Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2), lessening the effects of ovarian aging. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 is a transcription factor that helps regulate your cells under normal and stressed conditions.
It plays a role in providing antioxidant protection against damage that is done to the cell. It has been targeted in many chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease.
What does this mean in relation to fertility?
This study shows promise in the effect acai has on fertility outcomes. That said, more research is needed, and the quality and amount of acai used are very important. A therapeutic dose needs to be established for supplementation, specifically to enhance in-vitro fertilization outcomes.
It should also be noted that the acai supplementation used in the study were specific CCRM Acai Supplements which are produced specifically to preserve the high-level of antioxidant activity in acai. The current research does, however, indicate that increasing one’s intake of antioxidant-rich foods not only has now been shown to improve fertility but plays an essential role in neutralizing free radicals and preventing oxidative damage to the cells.
Consuming antioxidant foods and eating a diverse diet filled with different types of fruits and vegetables can help prevent the onset of chronic conditions.
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