From açaí to buriti to camu-camu: Study makes case for increased commercialization, research on Brazilian small wild fruits

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Açaí trees, which are part of the palm tree family, are native to the Amazon and Cerrado biospheres in Brazil. Getty Images / Filipe Frazao
Açaí trees, which are part of the palm tree family, are native to the Amazon and Cerrado biospheres in Brazil. Getty Images / Filipe Frazao

Related tags: Acai, açaí, camu-camu, berries, Berry, Polyphenols, Antioxidant, flavanols

Most studies looking at bioactive compounds have focused on temperate climate berries, argue researchers from Brazil. They make the case for the commercialization of Brazilian small fruits to compete with so-called ‘temperate berries.’

From relatively popular berries like açaí and camu-camu, to berries relatively unheard outside of Brazil like pupunha and jaboticaba, researchers from the University of Campinas in Brazil believe that there’s untapped potential in small Brazilian wild fruits, and that they deserve as much attention for research and commercial opportunities like, say, cranberries, blueberries, grapes, and tomatoes (yes, they’re botanically berries).

“Brazilian berries present great nutritional, functional and economic characteristics comparable to temperate berries,”​ the researchers wrote in a report​ published earlier this year in Food Research International​, in which they outlined why native Brazilian small fruits from the Arecaeae, Mirtaceae, and Malpighiaceae families.

“They constitute an important innovation domain for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, due to their positive health effects and market potential. Their strategic importance should stimulate new lines of research to consolidate this new field for the food industries.”

The team of researchers pored through existing published studies on various berries. Here are some of the native Brazilian berries the researchers outlined:

Açaí

Perhaps the most well-known berry native to Brazil, composition analysis revealed that açaí has high levels of fatty acids (omega 6 and 9), fibers, vitamins, flavonoids, and more. Past in vitro ​studies also revealed the fruit’s antioxidant-scavenging capacity.

Buriti

Buriti fruit has been studied for its high carotenoid levels. “It’s pulp is considered one of the main sources of pro-vitamin A found in Brazilian biodiversity, particularly beta-carotene,” ​they wrote. It is generally consumed in the form of beverages, ice creams, and deserts.

Camu-camu

Because of its high acidity, camu-camu berries aren’t usually consumed as is, but are is largely used in juices. Like açaí, it’s relatively more known outside of Brazil when compared to the other fruits. In fact, it has been subject to commercialization in the ingredient space​ before.

“Camu-camu is considered a fruit with high nutritional value due to its elevated levels of vitamin C and also by the presence of others bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins (cyanidin 3-glucoside, delphinidin 3-glucoside), flavonols (myricetin, quercetin), ellagic acid, ellagitannins, proanthocyanidins and carotenoids,”​ the researchers wrote. “The beneficial health effects of camu-camu are associated mainly with antioxidants.”

Camu camu Bobyhus25 Wikimedia Commons
Camu-camu fruit. Bobyhus25 / Wikimedia Commons

Pupunha

Peach-palm, or pupunha, is fully domesticated in the Amazonian region with a wide variety of breeds. It is rich in starch but lacks gluten, meaning that it is a potential material to develop gluten-free products.

A study conducted in 2013​ found that rats supplemented with pupunha showed a reduction of body weight, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Pupunha_(Bactris_gasipaes)_7
Sectioned pupunha fruit. Wikimedia Commons.

Murici

This fleshy and slightly oily fruit is well known in folk medicine for the use of its bark and leaves. The fruits are consumed fresh and as jams, juices, ice creams, and liqueurs.

Bioactive compounds found in the murici fruit include caffeic, ferulic, and gallic acids, which have been related to antioxidant activity. Its total phenol content is close to that of raspberry and strawberry, and a 2013 study found its antioxidant activity to be greater than raspberry, cranberry and cherry.

Source: Food Research International
Published online ahead of print, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2017.10.053
“Small Brazilian wild fruits: Nutrients, bioactive compounds, health-promotion properties and commercial interest”
Authors: Iramaia Angélica Neri-Numa

Related topics: Research

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