WHY IS THE ACAI OIL SO IMPORTANT?
Acai (Euterpe Oleracea) contains a very special oil where the essential fatty acid Omega 6 (Linoleic acid)and omega 9 (Oleic acid) are found. Acai oil is dark green and rich in Omega 6 & 9. Approximately 60 -80%of this oil is Omega 9 and 10 -20% Omega 6. Also contained in the oil are phytosterols and polyphenolics. The antioxidant capacity of this naturally occurring oil from the Acai fruit is as potent as that of the anthocyanins in the skin of the fruit itself. This oil is analogous to extra-virgin olive oil. The real test for Acai is the sign of the green slick on top of the juice.
Omega-9, or monounsaturated oleic and stearic acid, is a non essential fatty acid produced naturally by the body whenever there is enough of either Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids.However, if you do not have enough omega 3 and omega 6, then you must get omega 9 from your diet.This fatty acid plays a role in preventing heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. Other benefits of omega 9 are that it reduces hardening of the arteries and improves immune function.
Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs). They are essential to human health but cannot be made in the body. For this reason, they must be obtained from food. Omega-3 fatty acids are another important group of essential fatty acids. Together, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. EFAs belong to the class of fatty acids called polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They are generally necessary for stimulating skin and hair growth, maintaining bone health, regulating metabolism, and maintaining reproductive capability.
Deficiencies in EFAs can lead to reduced growth, a scaly rash called dermatitis, infertility, and lack of ability to fight infection and heal wounds. Lack of omega-6 fatty acids, however, is extremely rare in diets of those living in certain Western countries, particularly the United States and Israel. In fact, North American and Israeli diets tend to have too much omega-6, particularly in relation to omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance contributes to long-term diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression. A healthy diet should consist of roughly 2 - 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 - 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, and many researchers believe this imbalance is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.
There are several different types of omega-6 fatty acids. Most omega-6 fatty acids are consumed in the diet from vegetable oils as linoleic acid (LA). Acai is a very good source of Linoleic acid. Be careful not to confuse this with alpha-linolenic acid [ALA] which is an omega-3 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body and then further broken down to arachidonic acid (AA). AA can also be consumed directly from meat, and GLA can be ingested from several plant-based oils including acai.
Some clinicians and preliminary clinical research suggests that omega-6 fatty acids may be useful for the following health conditions:
Acne and psoriasis
Early clinical research has reported that dietary linoleic acid (LA, from corn oil and others) may prove beneficial for these skin conditions by replenishing the low levels of LA in these lesions. Further clinical research is needed in this area.
EPO may help lessen cravings for alcohol and prevent liver damage. Most of this information comes from animal studies, and more research in humans is needed.
People who are prone to allergies may require more essential fatty acids (EFAs) and often have difficulty converting LA to GLA. In fact, women and infants who are prone to allergies appear to have lower levels of GLA in breast milk and blood.
The use of EFAs to prevent allergic reactions or reduce their magnitude has had mixed results in clinical studies. There have been some reports of individuals lessening their allergic reaction by taking GLA from EPO. Well-conducted research studies are needed to determine whether EPO can be helpful for large numbers of people with allergies.
A clinical study evaluating the dietary intake of omega-6 fatty acids relative to the risk of having hay fever (or allergic rhinitis) found an increase risk of developing symptoms associated with hay fever (including runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes) when using omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-6 fatty acids from the diet or supplements, such as GLA from EPO or other sources, have a longstanding history of folk use for allergies. Whether this supplement improves symptoms of the conditions listed above may be very individual. Work with your health care provider to first determine if it is safe for you to try GLA and then follow your allergy symptoms closely for any signs of improvement or lack or improvement.
Clinical studies suggest that women, and possibly men, with anorexia nervosa have lower than optimal levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, including omega-6 fatty acids) and display abnormalities in the use of these fatty acids in the body. To prevent the metabolic complications associated with essential fatty acid deficiencies, some recommend that treatment programs for anorexia nervosa include PUFA-rich foods, such as organ meats and fish.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Clinical studies suggest that children with ADHD have lower levels of EFAs, both omega-6s and omega-3s. EFAs are important to normal brain and behavioral function. Because of their effects on the brain and nervous system and the low levels of EFAs measured in those with ADHD, scientists have speculated that replacement of EFAs through food or supplements may help lessen the behaviors and symptoms of this condition.
Clinical research to date has suggested an improvement in symptoms and behaviors related to ADHD from omega-3 fatty acids. Results of clinical studies supplying omega-6 fatty acids in the form of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) to children with ADHD, however, have been mixed and, therefore, not conclusive. More research on GLA for ADHD is needed before conclusions can be drawn. In the meantime, ensuring a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet seems worthwhile for those with this condition.
Results of studies looking at the relationship of omega-6 fatty acids to cancer have been mixed. While LA and AA are cancer promoting in studies of colon, breast, and other cancers, GLA and EPO have shown some benefit for breast cancer in certain studies. The information is not conclusive and is somewhat controversial. It may be important to eat a diet with the proper balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (see How To Take It), starting from a young age, to try to prevent the development of cancer.
Omega-6 fatty acid supplementation, in the form of GLA from evening primrose oil (EPO) or other sources, may assist nerve function and help prevent nerve disease experienced by those with diabetes (called peripheral neuropathy and felt as numbness, tingling, pain, burning, or lack of sensation in the feet or legs).
Several clinical studies suggest that EPO is more beneficial than placebo at relieving symptoms associated with this skin condition such as itching, redness, and scaling. However, other clinical studies have not had the same positive results testing GLA derived from EPO. Talk to your health care provider about the possibility and safety of trying EPO for this eczema.
GLA may be beneficial in dry-eye conditions such as Sjögren's syndrome (a condition with symptoms of dry eyes, dry mouth, and, often, arthritis).
Heart disease and high blood pressure
Animal studies suggest that GLA may lower the blood pressure of hypertensive rats -- either alone or in combination with two important omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both found in fish and fish oil. Together with EPA and DHA, the GLA helped to prevent the development of heart disease in these animals as well. It is unclear whether these benefits would occur in people.
Peripheral artery disease causes blockages in the blood vessels in the legs from atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), causing cramping pain with walking. In one clinical study evaluating individuals with peripheral artery disease, men and women with this condition did experience improvement in their blood pressure from the combination of EPA and GLA. Much more research is needed in people before conclusions can be drawn.
Although EPO has gained some popularity for treating hot flashes during menopause, the research to date has not demonstrated a benefit of GLA or EPO over taking a placebo. However, there are women who report improvement in symptoms while taking EPO. Talk to your health care professional about whether it is safe for you to try EPO or another form of GLA supplements to alleviate hot flashes.
Evening primrose oil (EPO) has a long history of use in treating multiple sclerosis (MS) although some of the clinical research on its effectiveness has been conflicting. MS patients seeking to incorporate the use of EPO in their treatment regimens should consult with a health care provider.
A deficiency in essential fatty acids, including GLA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA (an omega-3 fatty acid), can lead to severe bone loss and osteoporosis. Clinical studies have reported that supplements of GLA and EPA help maintain or increase bone mass. Essential fatty acids may also enhance calcium absorption, increase calcium deposits in bones, diminish calcium loss in urine, improve bone strength, and enhance bone growth, all of which may contribute to improved bone mass and, therefore, strength.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Although results of studies have been mixed, some women find relief of their PMS symptoms when using GLA supplements from EPO or another source. The symptoms that seem to be helped the most are breast tenderness and feelings of depression as well as irritability and swelling and bloating from fluid retention. Breast tenderness from causes other than PMS may also improve with use of GLA.
Some preliminary clinical studies suggest that GLA from EPO, borage oil, or black currant seed oil may diminish joint pain, swelling, and morning stiffness. GLA may also allow for reduction in amount of pain medication used by those with rheumatoid arthritis. The clinical studies to date, however, have been small in size. Additional research in this area is needed. When using GLA for symptoms of arthritis, it may take 1 - 3 months for benefits to appear.
Animal studies suggest that guinea pigs fed a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids were better able to fight this infection than guinea pigs fed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Whether this would help people with tuberculosis is not known.
Preliminary evidence from test tube and animal studies suggest that GLA from EPO may have anti-ulcer properties. It is premature to know how this might apply to people with stomach or intestinal ulcers or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach).
Results of clinical studies regarding use of EPO for weight loss have been mixed and, therefore, use of this type of supplement may not work for everyone. One clinical study suggests that if the supplement is going to work, it does so mainly for overweight individuals for whom obesity runs in the family. In addition, a few other small clinical studies suggest that the more overweight you are, the more likely that EPO will help. In fact, if your body weight is only 10% above normal (for example, 10 - 20 pounds above average), EPO is unlikely to help you lose weight.
Omega 9 oils
Based on preliminary clinical research many clinicians suggest that omega-9 fatty acids may be useful for the following health conditions:
Lowers cholesterol levels, thereby reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
Reduces atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
Reduces insulin resistance, thereby improves glucose (blood sugar) maintenance
Improves immune function
Provides protection against certain types of cancer