Aim: Euterpe Oleracea (açai) is a fruit from the Amazon region whose chemical composition may be beneficial for individuals with atherosclerosis. We hypothesized that consumption of Euterpe Oleracea would reduce atherosclerosis development by decreasing cholesterol absorption and synthesis.
Methods: Male New Zealand rabbits were fed a cholesterol-enriched diet (0.5%) for 12 weeks, when they were randomized to receive Euterpe Oleracea extract (n = 15) or water (n = 12) plus a 0.05% cholesterol-enriched diet for an additional 12 weeks. Plasma phytosterols and desmosterol were determined by ultra-performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Atherosclerotic lesions were estimated by computerized planimetry and histomorphometry.
Results: At sacrifice, animals treated with Euterpe Oleracea had lower levels of total cholesterol (p =0.03), non-HDL-cholesterol (p = 0.03) and triglycerides (p = 0.02) than controls. These animals had smaller atherosclerotic plaque area in their aortas (p = 0.001) and a smaller intima/media ratio (p = 0.002) than controls, without differences in plaque composition. At the end of the study, campesterol, β-sitosterol, and desmosterol plasma levels did not differ between groups; however, animals treated with Euterpe Oleracea showed lower desmosterol/campesterol (p = 0.026) and desmosterol/ β-sitosterol (p =0.006) ratios than controls.
Conclusions: Consumption of Euterpe Oleracea extract markedly improved the lipid profile and attenuated atherosclerosis. These effects were related in part to a better balance in the synthesis and absorption of sterols.