Açaí palm extract could effectively suppress the establishment and growth of endometriosis, according to a study conducted in rats.
The authors of the paper “Euterpe oleracea Extract (Açaí) Is a Promising Novel Pharmacological Therapeutic Treatment for Experimental Endometriosis,” which was published in the scientific journal PLOS One,concluded that the extract could be a propitious new pharmacological agent to treat endometriosis.
In order to investigate the therapeutic potential of açaí extract on the growth and survival of endometriotic lesions, the researchers experimentally induced endometriosis in 20 female rats. They then randomly divided the animals into two groups and treated those in the first group with 200 mg/kg of açaí extract for a month, while they left the animals in the second group untreated.
At the end of the treatment period, the researchers assessed the surface area of the lesions in the animals. They also measured the expression levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptor, which together play a role in the development of new blood vessels, as well as the expression levels of two enzymes. Those enzymes are metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), which is involved in the degradation of the extracellular matrix that provides structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which is responsible for the formation of molecules that mediate inflammation.
The results showed that treatment with açaí extract significantly decreased the size of the lesion. Further examination of the implanted tissue indicated the presence of atrophy, or wasting, and regression when the animals were treated with the açaí extract.
Moreover the expression of VEGF, MMP-9, and COX-2 were reduced in animals treated with açaí extract.
According to the authors, these results demonstrate the potential of açaí as a factor inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels, and inflammation. “Açaí may also modulate the progress of endometriosis and suppress the symptoms related to pain, which supports the possible development of a novel and effective drug,” wrote the first author of the study, Daniel Escorsim Machado, PhD, of Centro Universitário Estadual da Zona Oeste, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and colleagues wrote.
Although the actual mechanisms of action of açaí are not completely understood, the authors are optimistic that the effects seen in the rats may be reproducible in human clinical tests.
Açaí is a palm tree native to Brazil, Trinidad and northern South America. It is thought to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and pain-killer activities due to its high content in plant chemicals.