(Euterpe oleraceae, Arecaceae)
FATTY ACID COMPOSITION AND PHYSICAL-CHEMICAL DATA
The açaí oil represents a new cosmetic ingredient, originating from the Amazon forest, which provides many benefits for maintaining the cutaneous balance. Its structure is mainly composed of anthocyanins, phytosterols, and essential fatty acids (EFAs). The profile of fatty acids in açaí oil qualifies it as a special edible oil, mainly due to the presence of linoleic acid (Omega 6) and oleic acid (Omega 9), and is predominantly made of monounsaturated fatty acids (up to 61% ) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (up to 10.6%), both recommended for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Among the phytosterols present in açaí oil are beta-sitosferol, stigmasterol, and campesterol, which are widely used by the cosmetic industry as a preventive for the aging of skin because they stimulate the metabolism of cells and reduce inflammation.
It is no coincidence that the color of the açaí is similar to that of red wine. Anthocyanins are responsible for the color and are an antioxidant substance that helps to fight cholesterol and free radicals. However the açaí has up to 33 times more anthocyanins than grapes.
The açaí fruit is used for the preparation of the regional beverage, “wine of açaí,” which is a reference to the red-purple color of red wine made with grapes, and is consumed in large quantities throughout the Amazon. It is estimated that the daily consumption reaches 180 thousand liters in Belém. Due to its high nutritional value (calorific content), the "wine-of-açaí" is part of the diet of the population and is the primary source of energetic food, having a superior calorific value and two times more lipids than milk.
Açaí as a food provides the following benefits to the human body (values for 100 g of fruit pulp):
- Total lipids (48 g) and Potassium (932 mg) for essential energy production;
- Proteins for the development of muscles (13.00 g);
- Fiber to help intestinal functions (3.15 g);
- Anthocyanins for the control of cholesterol, which are responsible for the purple color of açaí (926 mg);
- Iron for the oxygenation of blood cells (2.6 mg);
- Vitamin E (α-Tocopherol 45 mg), as an antioxidant for the prevention of cancer;
- Calcium for strengthening of bones and prevention against osteoporosis (386 mg);
- Vitamin B1 for the flexibility and maintenance of the skeleton (0.25 mg).
Açaí is found throughout the Amazon basin and is particularly abundant in the eastern region. It is one of the most common palms of the state of Pará, and dominates the landscape, sometimes in almost pure stands. Açaí prefers flooded and wetland areas and easily regenerates. There are two main species of açaí, E. oleracea, which occurs more frequently in the estuary of the Amazon River, and E. precatoria, which is common in the forests of western Amazonia (in the states of Amazonas, Acre, Rondônia, and Roraima). Euterpe oleracea develops multiple stems, up to 20 if it is not managed, forming what is called a "cluster." This undoubtedly makes this species an appropriate tree to cultivate for both palm hearts and fruits. Palm heart can be harvested by selecting only some of the stems, year after year, without killing the individual while it develops new shoots. The removal of older stems corresponds to a form of sustainable management for this palm. On the other hand, E. precatoria forms a solitary stem that inhibits individuals of this species from being used as a source of both palm heart and fruits.
In sustainable managed plantations, both in native açaí formations in the várzea and on terra firme, 400 clusters are recommended per hectare with a space of 5 m around each plant. Estimating a production of 50 kg of fruits per cluster, with 4 stems producing fruits, it is possible for these trees to produce 20 tons of fruit per hectare. In the floodplain the production is 30% higher than on terra firme. The extraction of the açaí oil corresponds to only 1% of the volume of the fruits, which is very low and corresponds to 200 liters per hectare.
Açaí-solteiro (Euterpe precatoria), uma boa opção de exploração agrícola em Rondônia, http://ambientes.ambientebrasil.com.br/ agropecuario/artigo_agropecuario/acai-solteiro.html, (acessado 27/05/09).
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NASCIMENTO, R. J. : Composição em ácidos graxos do óleo da polpa de açaí extraído com enzimas e com hexano. 2008, Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura, Vol. 30, N° 02.
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SHANLEY, P. et. al. : Frutíferas e plantas úteis na vida amazônica, 2005, CIFOR, IMAZON, Editora Supercores, Belém, p. 300.