Fruit Flies Enjoy Longer Life With Acai Berries
August 22, 2012

Fruit Flies Enjoy Longer Life With Acai Berries

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Researchers from Emory University recently discovered that acai has the ability to counteract oxidative stress and lengthen the lifespan of fruit flies.

In the study, the scientists studied an acai berry product that could lengthen the lives of fruit flies. The health of the fruit flies was originally affected by oxidative stress, but certain conditions of a simple sugar diet and acai supplementation tripled the flies´ lifespan from eight days to 24 days. The results of the study were featured in a recent edition of the journal Experimental Gerontology.

"One thing that makes our work distinctive is that we tried commercially available supplements," explained lead author Alysia Vrailas-Mortimer, a postdoctoral fellow in Emory University School of Medicine´s Department of Cell Biology, in a prepared statement. "We went to a health food store and filled up a basket."

The scientists originally did not focus on the effects of acai, but eventually determined that the fruit did work better than other antioxidant products like lutein, vitamins, or the coenzyme Q10.

In a previous project, Vrailas-Mortimer had identified that flies with mutations in the “p38 MAP kinase” gene lived shorter lives and were more susceptible to factors like food deprivation, heat, and oxidative stress. As well, p38 mutant flies generally lived an average of eight days if given a simple sugar water diet. The researchers observed that their lifespan tripled when they were given acai with their regular diet in comparison to a control group that was given ginger supplements only.

Furthermore, the researchers also found that the acai could protect the flies from the neurotoxic effects of the herbicide paraquat. The effects of paraquat are similar to symptoms found related to Parkinson´s disease. With paraquat, the flies´ sleep wake cycles become chaotic. When the flies consumed acai, the effects of paraquat on the flies´ circadian rhythms were reduced.

"I think this is important," noted Vrailas-Mortimer in the statement. "We show that whatever is in acai that is lengthening lifespan, it can also keep the flies functioning better for longer when faced with paraquat exposure. It is maintaining quality of life rather than just preventing them from dying."

As well, the effects of acai were more significant in male fruit flies than female fruit flies. For example, when the flies consumed a standard cornmeal/molasses mush with acai, the males´ lifespans doubled from 20 to 40 days. The effects on female fruit flies were not as strong, with lifespan increasing from 30 to 34 days.

The scientists believe that the effects of the acai may be based on the mix of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. By using fruit flies that have oxidative stress, they were able to look at the effect of the acai components separately. In future studies, the investigators hope to continue to examine the components of acai together rather than separately on fruit lies.

"There may be a combinatorial effect, and if you separate the components from each other, you may lose the active principle," explained Subhabrata Sanyal, assistant professor of cell biology at Emory University, in the statement. "In addition, it seems to me that anti-oxidant therapy will not work after the damage has been done. So human clinical trials that don´t take this into account are likely to have disappointing results."