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Acerola Berry

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Updated August 15, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Acerola (Malpighia glabra L.) is a tropical fruit native to Mexico, Central and South America. Rich in antioxidants (including vitamin C and anthocyanins), acerola is often sold in supplement and juice form. Proponents claim that acerola offers a wide range of health benefits.

Acerola is sometimes referred to as acerola berry or acerola cherry. However, acerola is not related to cherries from the genus Prunus (such as the wild cherry).

Benefits of Acerola

To date, very few scientific studies have tested the potential health benefits of acerola. Although there is no evidence from clinical trials to show that acerola can enhance health, some preliminary findings from laboratory research and animal-based studies indicate that acerola may have some beneficial effects.

Here's a look at several key study findings:

1) Blood Sugar

Acerola may help reduce blood sugar levels, according to a 2006 study from Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. In tests on mice, scientists demonstrated that antioxidants extracted from acerola may help suppress transport of blood sugar throughout the intestines.

2) Oxidative Stress

In a laboratory study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition in 2011, researchers found that acerola extract may fight oxidative stress (an aging-related process linked to a number of major diseases).

3) Lung Cancer

Acerola shows promise for protection against lung cancer, a 2002 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology suggests. Tests on mice revealed that acerola extract helped regulate abnormal cell growth to slow the spread of lung cancer.

Uses for Acerola

Acerola is touted as a natural remedy for a number of health conditions, including:

In addition, some proponents claim that acerola can stimulate the production of collagen, improve sports performance and slow the aging process.

What Is Acerola Gel?

Acerola gel is a beauty product said to improve skin tone and heal sun-damaged skin. While preliminary research suggests that oral intake of acerola extract may shield skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure, there is currently a lack of scientific support for the claim that topically applied acerola can benefit the skin.

Safety

Although little is known about the safety of long-term use of acerola extract, there is some concern that oral intake of acerola may cause certain side effects (including nausea, diarrhea, headache, redness of skin and kidney stones).

Where to Find Acerola

Widely available for purchase online, acerola can also be found in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using Acerola for Health

Due to the lack of supporting research, acerola cannot currently be recommended as a principal standard treatment for any health problem. It's important to note that using acerola as substitute for standard treatment of a chronic condition may have serious health consequences.

Sources

de Brito ES, de Araújo MC, Alves RE, Carkeet C, Clevidence BA, Novotny JA. "Anthocyanins present in selected tropical fruits: acerola, jambolão, jussara, and guajiru." J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Nov 14;55(23):9389-94.

Hanamura T, Mayama C, Aoki H, Hirayama Y, Shimizu M. "Antihyperglycemic effect of polyphenols from Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) fruit." Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2006 Aug;70(8):1813-20.

Hanamura T, Uchida E, Aoki H. "Skin-lightening effect of a polyphenol extract from Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) fruit on UV-induced pigmentation." Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Dec;72(12):3211-8.

Motohashi N, Wakabayashi H, Kurihara T, Fukushima H, Yamada T, Kawase M, Sohara Y, Tani S, Shirataki Y, Sakagami H, Satoh K, Nakashima H, Molnár A, Spengler G, Gyémánt N, Ugocsai K, Molnár J. "Biological activity of barbados cherry (acerola fruits, fruit of Malpighia emarginata DC) extracts and fractions." Phytother Res. 2004 Mar;18(3):212-23.

Nagamine I, Akiyama T, Kainuma M, Kumagai H, Satoh H, Yamada K, Yano T, Sakurai H. "Effect of acerola cherry extract on cell proliferation and activation of ras signal pathway at the promotion stage of lung tumorigenesis in mice." J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2002 Feb;48(1):69-72.

Nunes Rda S, Kahl VF, Sarmento Mda S, Richter MF, Costa-Lotufo LV, Rodrigues FA, Abin-Carriquiry JA, Martinez MM, Ferronatto S, Ferraz Ade B, da Silva J. "Antigenotoxicity and antioxidant activity of Acerola fruit (Malpighia glabra L.) at two stages of ripeness." Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2011 Jun;66(2):129-35.M

Souza CO, Silva LT, Silva JR, López JA, Veiga-Santos P, Druzian JI. "Mango and acerola pulps as antioxidant additives in cassava starch bio-based film." J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Mar 23;59(6):2248-54.

Visentainer JV, Vieira OA, Matsushita M, de Souza NE. "Physico-chemical characterization of acerola (Malpighia glabra L.) produced in Maringá, Paraná State, Brazil." Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1997 Mar;47(1):70-2.

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