Açaí for High Cholesterol

acai berry
Paulo Neves de Oliveira Junior/Moment Open/Getty Images

Açaí  (Euterpe oleracea) is a small purple berry said to aid in cholesterol control. Sourced from a palm tree native to tropical Central and South America, it's often taken in juice or dietary supplement form. Some alternative medicine proponents claim that regular consumption of açaí products can help lower cholesterol levels and, in turn, stave off heart disease.

Why Do Some People Use Açaí to Lower Cholesterol Levels?

In the body, there are two main types of carriers responsible for transporting cholesterol throughout your bloodstream: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

So-called "bad" cholesterol is carried in LDL, and elevated LDL cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque (a substance known to clog your arteries and threaten heart health). (HDL, meanwhile, is referred to as "good" cholesterol, as it represents excess cholesterol that has been cleared from your arteries.)

Related: Cholesterol and Triglycerides - What You Need to Know

One of the key factors that causes high cholesterol and the build-up of arterial plaque is LDL oxidation (a process in which oxygen is added to LDL cholesterol). Since antioxidants may help prevent LDL oxidation, it's thought that increased antioxidant intake can help keep cholesterol in check and fight hardening of the arteries (a heart-disease-associated condition also known as atherosclerosis).

Often touted as a rich source of antioxidants, açaí pulp has been found to contain anthocyanins (a class of compounds with antioxidant properties).

But while some preliminary research suggests that consumption of anthocyanins may help improve cholesterol levels, there's little scientific support for the claim that açaí can inhibit LDL oxidation and help control cholesterol.

The Science Behind Açaí and Cholesterol

So far, most of the evidence for açaí's effects on cholesterol comes from preliminary research in animals.

While this research is limited, some studies indicate that intake of açaí may curb cholesterol levels and protect against atherosclerosis.

Although there's currently a lack of clinical trials testing the potentially cholesterol-lowering effects of açaí, a small pilot study published in Nutrition Journal in 2011 found that daily consumption of açaí fruit pulp led to reduced cholesterol levels in overweight adults.

For the study, 10 overweight participants took 100 grams of açaí pulp twice a day for a month. At the study's end, researchers observed that the participants reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. While study members also showed a decrease in blood sugar levels, treatment with açaí did not appear to affect blood pressure.

The animal-based research on açaí and cholesterol includes a study published in the journal Nutrition in 2010. In the study, rats placed on an açaí-enriched diet for six weeks showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol levels. The study found that açaí appeared to lower cholesterol in part by improving the animals' antioxidant status.


Because there's currently a lack of clinical trials testing the health effects of açaí, little is known about the safety of prolonged or regular use of açaí supplements.

However, there's some concern that consuming açaí may affect the results of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests. Therefore, it's important to avoid açaí products prior to undergoing a scheduled MRI test.

Açaí may also trigger an allergic reaction among those with allergies to plants in the palm family.

It's also important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Using Açaí to Lower Cholesterol Levels

Including antioxidant-rich foods such as açaí in your diet may help boost your overall health and possibly strengthen your defense against major health issues like heart disease and cancer. However, further research is needed before any type of açaí product can be recommended as a natural approach to cholesterol control.

It's important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're struggling with high cholesterol, talk to your doctor before using açaí for cholesterol management. 


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