Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Açaí (Euterpe oleracea) and Bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba) as Functional Food

Written By

Wanessa Almeida da Costa, Mozaniel Santana de Oliveira, Marcilene Paiva da Silva, Vânia Maria Borges Cunha, Rafael Henrique Holanda Pinto, Fernanda Wariss Figueiredo Bezerra and Raul Nunes de Carvalho Junior

Submitted: 31 May 2016 Reviewed: 20 September 2016 Published: 01 March 2017

DOI: 10.5772/65881

From the Edited Volume

Superfood and Functional Food - An Overview of Their Processing and Utilization

Edited by Viduranga Waisundara and Naofumi Shiomi

Chapter metrics overview

2,339 Chapter Downloads

View Full Metrics


This chapter reviews two oleaginous fruits that are widely consumed by people in the Amazon region: Bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba) and Açaí (Euterpe oleracea). Besides their food and the folk medicinal uses, studies suggest that substances present in both berries have antioxidative effects, antimicrobial, and therapeutic properties such as hypocholesterolemic and neuroprotection effects. These therapeutic effects are related to phenolic compounds, anthocyanins, and fatty acids, which can prevent serious problems such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, and depression. The use of supercritical fluid technology is described as a technique to obtain the best extracts of bacaba and açaí, as well as their valuable constituents. Indubitably, this technology is a great tool for human health and all with the advantage of presenting nontoxic solvents such as carbon dioxide or water. Açaí and bacaba fruits represent not only food but also a source of compounds that can work in both prevention and treatment of diseases.


  • Amazon
  • açaí
  • bacaba
  • bioactive compounds
  • antioxidants
  • functional food

1. Introduction

The Brazilian Amazon represents one of the richest biomes found in the world. It presents many sources of plants, including native ones not yet explored, but that have potential for use. The economic importance that the aromatic plants represent to the Amazon region is associated with the application of their vegetable oils and aromas in technological and industrial processes. Because of this, there is a greater investment in such plants extraction sector, causing an expansion of the domestic and international markets.

Because of this biodiversity, there is a wide variety of oleaginous species, as is the case of andiroba (Carapa guianensis), tucumã (Astrocaryum vulgare), buriti (Mauritia flexuosa), palm (Elaeis guineensis, Jacq), açaí (Euterpe oleracea), and bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba). These species experimentally have a high yield in vegetable oils, with the potential for production of biologically active natural products, the so-called bioactive compounds, which have a high value added. Among these, the fat-soluble vitamins carotenoids (provitamin A), tocopherols (provitamin E and antioxidant), dyes, and flavonoids (anthocyanins, which are dyes with antioxidant effects) can be highlighted.

The characteristics of the Amazon region are conducive to the proliferation of palm trees, among which there are the oleaginous ones that are commercially cultivated with already fully established management technology, as is the case of açaí and bacaba, which can be considered new “superfruits.” The consumption of these fruits pulps has been increasing, mainly due to the benefits that are being showed by scientific papers. Açaí, for example, has a high economic potential, mainly due to its use in the preparation of açaí beverages, which are exported all over the world as an energetic drink [1].

Besides the folk use as a drink, studies suggest that substances present in both berries have therapeutic properties such as hypocholesterolemic and neuroprotection effects. These therapeutic effects are related to fatty acids, which can prevent serious problems such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, and depression [2, 3]. The presence of phenolic compounds in their composition also gives them properties such as antimicrobial and antioxidant effects [4, 5].

Another group of compounds with significant presence in açaí and bacaba is anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are plant-derived compounds belonging to the flavonoids subgroup of phenolic compounds. Besides antioxidative properties, anthocyanins are the focus of studies for application on humans against diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s [68].

Among the various methods of obtaining natural extracts, the process of supercritical fluid extraction has become appropriate and of great interest to the food industry, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic technology. It provides the obtainment of products free of residual solvents and with superior quality, while preserving the organoleptic properties of the material. The most used solvent in the supercritical technology is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is inert, nontoxic, has a high solubility, and allows performing low-temperature processes, which are perfect for the extraction of thermosensible compounds, as is the case of, for example, anthocyanins.


2. Açaí and bacaba as functional food

The food industry has high expectations in food products that meet the consumers’ demand for a healthy lifestyle. In this context, functional food plays a specific role, which is not only to satisfy hunger but also to provide humans the necessary nutrients. It also prevents nutrition-related diseases and increases their physical and mental well-being [9].

In Brazil, there are two kinds of functional food: açaí and bacaba (see Figure 1 ), which are oleaginous fruits, present black-violet color, and are from typical palm trees in the Amazon region. They belong to the Arecaceae family and when processed with water, form an emulsion. Both are commercially exploited for the production of foods and beverages. The juices of bacaba and açaí are considered tasty and much appreciated by the Amazonian population. In the period between harvests of açaí, from December to April, bacaba has the highest sales potential, in a relay system [10, 11].

Figure 1.

Bacaba (a) and açaí (b) berries.

The functional quality of bacaba oil was analyzed by Pinto [12] through the determination of atherogenicity index (AI) and thrombogenicity index (TI) proposed by Ulbricht and Southgate [13] and hypocholesterolemic/hypercholesterolemic ratio (h/H) suggested by Santos-Silva et al. [14]. The results of AI, TI, and h/H were satisfactory. Although the values of AI and TI were low, h/H was high in levels that show bacaba oil could be regarded as cardioprotective, suggesting the direct consumption of it in the form of table oil, similar to olive oil, or in encapsulated form as a phytopharmaco. In the same study, bacaba oil was used for coating iron oxide for the synthesis of Fe3O4 magnetic nanoparticles (MNP). The results showed that the oil well replaced the oleic acid, with the formation of MNP with morphological and desirable magnetic characteristics. MNP have therapeutic features, being used as drug carriers in the treatment of cancer by magnetic induction, reducing collateral effects to patients.

Açaí, being a source of fibers and rich in antioxidants, has considerable potential for nutritional applications and in the health field as a functional food or dietary supplement [15]. The work conducted by Barbosa et al. [2] evaluated the effect of a diet with daily consumption of açaí pulp in the prevention of oxidative damage by measuring the activity of antioxidant enzymes and the use of protein biomarkers in healthy women. The results showed that the açaí intake increased the activity of catalase, an intracellular enzyme which is also known as hydroperoxidase, able to decompose the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which is associated with various pathologies connected to oxidative stress; the results also showed an increase in total antioxidant capacity and a reduction in the production of reactive oxygen species. These studies reveal the antioxidant effect of açaí, increasing the understanding of its beneficial health properties.

The antioxidants found in açaí and bacaba are necessary to prevent the formation and oppose the actions of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS), which are continuously formed in the human body. Mechanisms of free radicals such as these are related to various human diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis, malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases. Many components of the diet such as carotenoids and plant pigments are suggested as important antioxidants; however, the interest in phenolic compounds of plants, particularly flavonoids, is also increasing. Thus, diets based on functional foods rich in antioxidants are important for the maintenance of human health [1619].


3. Chemical composition of açaí and bacaba

The nutritional properties of Amazonian palm trees are related to the composition of fatty acids and phytochemical compounds, the so-called bioactive compounds. Açaí and bacaba are some of the species of fruits that have become quite attractive, not only for lipid content they present, but also for their composition of bioactive compounds.

The fatty acids present in fruit species such as these are considered one of the most important constituents in living organisms due to their structural role in cell membranes and as metabolic energy sources [20]. Those considered essential to life are known as essential unsaturated fatty acids and must be supplied by food. The main representatives are omega-9 (ω-9), omega-6 (ω-6), and omega-3 (ω-3). Of these groups, the α-linolenic acid (n-3), the linoleic and arachidonic acids (n-6), and the oleic acid (n-9) can be highlighted [21]. The vegetable oils, such as bacaba and açaí, are good sources of these components and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K [22].

According to Martin et al. [23], the availability of ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids in the human species depends on the food supply, and moreover, it is important to know what are the sources capable of supplying these needs. Table 1 shows some sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids of fruits that come from palm trees and are considered as dietary sources of fatty acids.

Fruits that come from palm trees Part of the fruit analyzed (C12:0) lauric (%) (C14:0) myristic (%) (C16:0) palmitic (%) (C18:1) oleic (%) (C18:2) linoleic (%) (C18:3) linolenic (%)
Babaçu (Orbignya phalerata Martius)1 Kernel 44.0 17.0 8.0 14.0 2.0
Buriti (Mauritia flexuosa L.f.)2 Mesocarp 18.0 73.5 2.7 2.1
Dendê (palm) (Elaeis olifera)3 Endocarp 47.9 16.1 8.4 16.2 2.7 Traces
Pupunha (Bactris gasipaes)4 Mesocarp 35.20 51.7 4.9 1.2
Tucumã (Astrocaryum vulgare)5 Epicarp + mesocarp 0.10 24.6 65.1 2.6 0.2
Bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba)6 Mesocarp 0.18 0.59 32.27 40.82 9.78 1.93
Bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba)7 Mesocarp 30.6 47.3 20.6
Patauá (Jessenia bataua)5 Mesocarp 0.10 13.3 76.7 3.9 0.1
Açaí (Euterpe oleracea)3 Mesocarp 25.9 54.9 11.5 1.1

Table 1.

Content of the main fatty acids present in palm tree fruits consumed in the human diet.

Sources: 1Lima et al. [24], 2Tavares et al. [25], 3Rogez. [26], 4Yuyama et al. [27], 5Rodrigues et al. [28], 6Montúfar et al. [29], 7Santos et al. [30].

Batista et al. [8] obtained the fatty acids profile of lyophilized açaí pulp extracts obtained by extraction with supercritical CO2, as shown in Table 2 .

Content of fatty acids in % g/100mg
Fatty 50°C 50°C 50°C 60°C 60°C 60°C 70°C 70°C 70°C
Acid 150 bar 220 bar 350 bar 190 bar 270 bar 420 bar 220 bar 320 bar 490 bar
C8:0 0.69 1.26 0.83 0.77 1.58 0.40 0.33 2.27 0.02
C10:0 0.03 0.02 0.02 0.04 0.03
C12:0 0.07 0.17 0.17 0.13 0.19 0.25 0.07 0.33 0.14
C13:0 0.02 0.21
C14:0 0.13 0.24 0.16 0.19 0.21 0.30 0.13 0.42 0.18
C16:0 28.15 30.91 23.47 26.29 29.20 28.58 25.41 90.86 27.81
C16:1 4.95 0.03 5.49 6.14 7.08 6.83 4.16 0.08 5.81
C17:0 0.04 0.14 0.03 0.05 0.19 0.03
C18:0 1.05 1.25 1.02 0.80 1.14 1.16 1.43 5.35 1.33
C18:1 64.86 65.81 52.73 50.78 60.42 62.41 55.71 0.23 64.65
C18:2 15.54 14.80 12.59
C20:0 0.08 0.10
C22:0 0.22 0.38 0.04
SFA 30.18 34.15 26.22 28.25 32.48 30.74 27.53 99.67 29.53
MUFA 69.81 65.84 58.23 56.93 67.51 69.25 59.87 0.31 70.46
PUFA 15.54 14.80 12.59
S/U 0.43 0.52 0.35 0.39 0.48 0.44 0.38 321.52 0.42

Table 2.

Content of fatty acids in açaí pulp extracts obtained by extraction with supercritical CO2.

C8:0 (caprylic acid); C10:0 (capric acid); C12:0 (lauric acid); C13:0 (tridecanoic acid); C14:0 (myristic acid); C15:0 (pentadecanoic acid); C16:0 (palmitic acid); C16:1 (palmitoleic acid); C17:0 (margaric acid); C18:0 (stearic acid); C18:1 (oleic acid); C18:2 (linoleic acid); C18:3 (linolenic acid); C20:0 (arachidic acid); C22:0 (behenic acid); SFA (saturated fatty acids); MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids); PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids).

Foods rich in fatty acids, such as bacaba and açaí, can play an important role in human food base, because the linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids present in these raw materials are considered functional and exhibit inflammation-reducing and immunity-increasing properties in the human body, as demonstrated by Wallace et al. [31], Schwab and Serhan [32], Serhan et al. [33], and Calder [34].

In addition to fatty acids, various bioactive compounds can be found in these fruits. Yamaguchi et al. [1] report that about 90 substances have been found in açaí, of which approximately 31% consist of flavonoids, followed by 23% of phenolic compounds, 11% of lignoids, and 9% of anthocyanins. These are compounds that are correlated with high biological activity.

Of these components, anthocyanins have received great attention due to their potential benefits in preventing chronic diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer [8]. They are glycosides of anthocyanins and have, at their core, the flavylium cation. They belong to the group of flavonoids and subgroup of phenolic compounds. These compounds are responsible for defining the color of a variety of vegetables, including purple color in açaí [1]. They are hydrophilic, stable at acid pH, sensitive to light exposure, elevated temperatures, and presence of O2.

To obtain bioactive substances such as anthocyanins, different extraction techniques have been developed with the aim of reducing the extraction time and the solvent consumption, increasing the extraction yield and improving the quality of the extracts. Among these techniques are included: ultrasound assisted extraction, microwave assisted extraction, supercritical fluid extraction, and accelerated solvent extraction [35].

The choice of a method for extracting anthocyanins depends largely on the purpose of extraction and the nature of the constituent molecules of these compounds [36]. Therefore, as these pigments are very soluble in water, they are easily extracted by polar solvents. Their extraction typically involves the use of aqueous acidified solutions of ethanol, methanol, or acetone [37]. However, these solvents have also used limitations such as lower extraction efficiency compared to other solvents, as well as a lower durability of their extracts [38, 39].

The main anthocyanins found in açaí are cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside. In bacaba, it is cyanidin-3-glucoside. This information is presented in Table 3 , as well as an overview of some anthocyanin extraction applications of açaí, bacaba, and other raw materials. Their chemical structures are presented in Figure 2 .

Figure 2.

Chemical structures of the main anthocyanins found in açaí and bacaba (a): 2-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-5,7-dihydroxy-3-chromeniumyl6-O-(6-deoxy-α-L-mannopyranosyl)-β-D-glucopyranoside; (b): 2-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-5,7-dihydroxy-3-chromeniumyl β-D-glucopyranoside [nomenclatures according to IUPAC].

References Application Anthocyanins quantification
Finco et al. [40] Characterization and analysis of total phenolic compounds and total flavonoids of bacaba extract (Oenocarpus bacaba Mart.) by HPLC-DAD-MS The total content of monomeric anthocyanin was evaluated by a differential pH method described by Sellappan et al. [41]. The anthocyanin cyanidin-3-glucoside was used as pattern
Gouvêa et al. [42] Isolation of anthocyanins patterns (cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside) of lyophilized açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) by HPLC The isolation of anthocyanins was carried out by HPLC. The anthocyanin identification in the lyophilized açaí was done by mass spectrometry. They used the anthocyanins patterns: cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside
Santos et al. [43] This study evaluated the encapsulation of anthocyanin extract obtained from jabuticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) using supercritical CO2 as solvent and ethanol as co-solvent In the extraction of jabuticaba anthocyanin, supercritical CO2 was used together with the co-solvent ethanol in certain conditions of pressure, temperature, and flow ratio
Paes et al. [44] Extraction of anthocyanins and phenolic compounds of blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) using supercritical CO2 and water and ethanol as co-solvents HPLC and mass spectrometry. Pelargonidin was used as pattern for the identification of anthocyanins
Neves et al. [45] The objective of this study was to follow the physicochemical and functional alterations of açaí and bacaba pulps processed by hand For the determination of total anthocyanins, the method of Francis [46] was used
Novello et al. [47] This study aimed to evaluate the influence of organic solvents on the extraction of anthocyanins from açaí. The anthocyanins, the fatty acids profile, and the antioxidant activity of the extract were analyzed by HPLC The anthocyanins were determined by spectrophotometry using differential pH method described by Giusti and Wrolstad [48]. The identification and quantification of anthocyanins of lyophilized açaí extract were performed by HPLC-DAD. The identified anthocyanins were cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside
Batista et al. [8] This study determined the phenolic compounds and anthocyanins of lyophilized açaí pulp after extraction with supercritical CO2 The anthocyanins were determined by UV-visible spectrophotometry using the Folin-Ciocalteu reagent, according to the method described by Singleton and Rossi [49]

Table 3.

Overview of anthocyanin extraction applications.

In addition to anthocyanins, other bioactive compounds have been identified in açaí and bacaba. Pacheco-Palencia et al. [50] analyzed two species of açaí and identified several flavones, including homoorientin, orientin, deoxyhexose taxifolin, and isovitexin; flavanol derivatives, including (+)—catechin, (−)—epicatechin, procyanidin dimers and trimers, and phenolic acids such as protocatechuic, p-hydroxybenzoic, vanillic, syringic, and ferulic. Phenolic compounds are also reported to be potentially protective against cardiovascular disease and cancer [51]. Also, large amounts of phenolic compounds such as phenolic acids, flavanols, and flavonols can be found, which act as cofactors to improve the biological action of anthocyanins [52].

Santos et al. [53] evaluated the content of bioactive compounds and total antioxidant capacity of native fruits of the Amazon palm trees, including the species O. bacaba. Their results showed a high content of total polyphenols, presence of carotenoids, higher levels of anthocyanins, and antioxidant capacity in the bacaba extracts. In the study of Finco et al. [40], the phenolic classes: C-glycoside, flavonoid, C-hexoside, C-glycosylflavone, isorhamnetin hexoside, quercetin hexoside, quercetin diglycoside, quercetin glycoside, and isorhamnetin glycoside, were identified.


4. Methods for obtaining vegetable oils

The economic importance that aromatic plants have in the Amazon region is associated with the application of their vegetable oils and use of their aromas in technological and industrial processes. Because of this, there is a greater investment in such plants extraction sector, causing an expansion of the domestic and international markets.

The soil and climate of the Amazon region are conducive to the proliferation of palm trees, among which there are the oleaginous ones cultivated with commercial purpose. This is the case of açaí and bacaba, whose extraction already constitutes a significant economic activity in the state of Pará-Brazil. There are other native palm trees in the region that provide oleaginous fruits rich in provitamins A and E, yet poorly explored, such as pupunha (Guilielmaspeciosa) and tucumã (Astrocaryumvulgare). These and other vegetable raw materials present in their composition have a high content of lipids, with significant potential for extraction.

Extraction is a unit operation widely used in the food industry and can be used for the production of coffee, sugar, caffeine extraction, vegetable oils, flavorings, and essential oils [54]. Obtaining these extracts may be accomplished by different methods such as mechanical pressing extraction, solvent extraction, supercritical fluids extraction, or others, depending on their content [5557].

4.1. Mechanical pressing extraction

The extraction by mechanical pressing is one of the oldest methods of obtaining oil and fats from seed and fruits. For this kind of extraction, the packaged material enters through a feed shaft in the press. The press consists of a basket formed of spaced rectangular steel bars, through blades, whose thickness varies depending on the raw material. In the center of the basket, there is a screw that rotates and moves the material forward, compressing it at the same time. The pressure is regulated via an outlet cone [58, 59].

Souza et al. [60] and Pighinelli et al. [61] report that although the mechanical pressing extraction is less efficient than other methods, it is a more workable system on a small scale, for not being dependent on facilities and safety that are characteristics of the solvent processing, besides being fast, easy to handle and presents low cost of installation and maintenance.

One of the disadvantages of the mechanical pressing method is its low oil yield recovery: even in the most efficient presses, there is still a range of 3–5% of remaining oil in the cake. This residual oil present in the cake can be recovered by a two-step process: pre-extraction (with the screw-press) and solvent extraction, thus maximizing efficiency. Furthermore, the solvent extraction is recommended only in raw materials with <25% of fat content [6259].

4.2. Solvent extraction

This type of extraction occurs by partitioning a solute between two immiscible or partially miscible phases. The mass transfer occurs from the solutes in the food matrix to the solvent. First, the solute is dissolved in the solvent, then the penetration of the particle solution in the food surface occurs, and finally the solution is dispersed in the solvent. According to Ghosh [64], solvent extraction can be classified into four types depending on the phase of the matrix: (i) solid-liquid extraction; (ii) liquid-liquid extraction; (iii) vapor extraction; and (iv) supercritical fluids extraction.

The solvent choice is of fundamental importance in the aspects that aim at efficiency, economy, and preservation of the physicochemical and nutritional characteristics of oils. In conventional extraction, some solvents used for obtaining oils from plants are hexane, n-hexane, pentane, ethanol, and petroleum ether [59, 63, 6570].

In the solvent extraction, there can be a reduction in the product quality because of the several steps necessary to recover the solvent, elevated temperature, long periods of thermal exposure, high oxygen concentration, and extraction of other compounds considered undesirable [63, 71].

4.3. Supercritical fluids extraction

The supercritical fluids (SCFs) extraction is a unit operation by contact that is based on the balance and on the physicochemical properties of the SCFs, being dependent on operating conditions such as temperature, pressure, solvent flow, the material morphology, prior treatment of the porous solid matrix, and the physical properties of the packed bed, such as porosity, distribution and particle size, initial content of solute in the solid matrix, and the fixed bed height [72].

The SCFs present intermediate characteristics between liquids and gases. The diffusion coefficient (DC) of SCFs is high and close to the gases DC, thus increasing the diffusivity when they are in the liquid state, providing a rapid and efficient mass transfer. The density of SCFs is greater than that of a gas, having a higher solvating power due to the high compressibility. Furthermore, they exhibit low viscosity and the absence of surface tension, which promote greater penetration into the solid matrix [73, 74].

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is widely used as SCF due to having low critical temperature and pressure (73.74 bar and 304.12 K, respectively), besides being: nontoxic, nonflammable, odorless, and easily separated from the extract. Due to its low critical temperature, it is possible to use it to extract reactive and thermosensitive compounds. CO2 is suitable for extracting apolar compounds, but when polar organic solvents such as ethyl acetate, ethanol, or methanol are added, the polarity is modified, being possible to extract other compounds. These aggregate solvents are called co-solvents [75].

Batista et al. [8] obtained açaí extracts fractions with supercritical CO2 and analyzed the allelopathic effects of these extracts on two species of invasive plants: Mimosa pudica and Senna obtusifolia. They observed that depending on the operating conditions of temperature and pressure used, the pattern of phytotoxic responses can change: in some cases, the effect may be stimulatory to seed development. Studies on allelopathy have direct influence on human health, because the use of chemicals such as pesticides, which can cause diseases such as cancer, can be avoided [7678]. However, other studies must be conducted to isolate the specific metabolites for each role assigned to the açaí.

Pinto [12] also obtained bacaba extracts fractions with supercritical CO2 at different conditions of temperature and pressure. In his work, bacaba is mentioned as a rich source of natural antioxidants and dyes. However, there is a need for further studies to elucidate bacaba’s behavior in different processes.

4.4. Other extraction methods

The methods of soxhlet, hydrodistillation, solid-liquid, and ultrasound-assisted extraction do not present a performance as good as the one presented by the extraction with supercritical fluids: it has a high selectivity, low or no organic solvent consumption, operates at temperature close to room, no request for subsequent purification steps, and reduces post-processing costs as there is no longer need to eliminate solvent extracts [75, 79, 80].


5. Anthocyanins extraction by SFE

Anthocyanins are the most abundant flavonoid constituents of fruits and vegetables. Their use into food and/or medical fields has proven to be a technological challenge since these compounds have low stability and are susceptible to degradation through factors such as the presence of light, pH, temperatures usually higher than 60–80°C, the presence of sulfite, ascorbic acid, enzymes (such as glycosidases and phenolases), among other factors [43, 81, 82].

In the literature, the recovery of phytochemicals from solid wastes has been reported using conventional and alternative technologies. According to Paes et al. [44], conventional methods are Soxhlet extraction, maceration extraction, extraction by infusion and vapor distillation. Alternative techniques such as supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) and pressurized liquid extraction (PLE) eventually assisted with ultrasound are also reported.

Supercritical fluids processes have proved to be an excellent alternative to extract natural pigments due to the use of environmentally friendly solvents, such as carbon dioxide. According to Vatai et al. [83], extractions with supercritical CO2 result in non-deteriorated reactions, due to low process temperatures. The CO2 is readily available, relatively cheap, and accepted as a solvent in the food industry. SFE with CO2 is an excellent isolation method for natural materials and gives an alternative to replace the nonpolar organic solvents, which can be a source of food contamination.

Supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) using carbon dioxide (CO2) has been applied for the pretreatment of natural materials, as shown in the works of Paula et al. [84], Ghafoor et al. [85], and Floris et al. [86]. Operating conditions (temperatures varying from 40 to 50°C and pressures above 200 bar) and the use of co-solvents such as ethanol and water were used in their studies as modifiers to obtain the maximum extract yield. According to Seabra et al. [87], even though the choice of the appropriate polar solvent is a key factor for the success of the anthocyanin extraction procedure, its influence on the extract’s characteristics is not always clear, due to the diverse structure and composition of plant materials and also the relation material-solvent.


6. Conclusion

Açaí (Euterpe oleracea) and bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba) are highly consumed fruits in Amazon that come from common palm trees and have remarkable properties. There are many benefits that help increasing their role in the growing market for nutraceuticals. Their extracts have a range of bioactive and polyphenolic components with antioxidant properties that make them new “superfruits”; however, further studies still need to be conducted in order to elucidate all the roles that these fruits can play. Açaí and bacaba represent not only food, but also a real source of health for humans.


  1. 1. Yamaguchi KKL, Pereira LFR, Lamarão CV, Lima ES, Veiga-Junior VF. Amazon acai: chemistry and biological activities: a review. Food Chemistry. 2015; 179: 137–151.
  2. 2. Barbosa PO, Pala D, Silva CT, de Souza MO, do Amaral JF, Vieira RAL, et al. Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp dietary intake improves cellular antioxidant enzymes and biomarkers of serum in healthy women. Nutrition. 2016; 32(6): 674–680.
  3. 3. Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, Appel LJ, Nutrition Committee. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2012; 106(21): 2747–2757.
  4. 4. Xie C, Kang J, Burris R, Ferguson ME, Schauss AG, Nagarajan S, et al. Acaí juice attenuates atherosclerosis in ApoE deficient mice through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Atherosclerosis. 2011; 216(2): 327–333.
  5. 5. Santos VS, Bisen-Hersh E, Yu Y, Cabral ISR, Nardini V, Culbreth M, et al. Anthocyanin-rich Açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) Extract attenuates manganese-induced oxidative stress in rat primary astrocyte cultures. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A. 2014; 77(7): 390–404.
  6. 6. Kang J, LI Z, Wu T, Jensen GS, Schauss AG, Wu X. Anti-oxidant capacities of flavonoid compounds isolated from acai pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.). Food Chemistry. 2010; 122(3): 610–617.
  7. 7. Hogan S, Chung H, Zhang L, Li J, Lee Y, Dai Y, et al. Antiproliferative and antioxidant properties of anthocyanin-rich extract from açai. Food Chemistry. 2010; 118(2): 208–214.
  8. 8. Batista CCR, Oliveira MS, Araújo ME, Rodrigues AMC, Botelho JSR, Filho APSS, et al. Supercritical CO2 extraction of açaí (Euterpe oleracea) berry oil: global yield, fatty acids, allelopathic activities, and determination of phenolic and anthocyanins total compounds in the residual pulp. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2016; 107: 364–369.
  9. 9. Menrad K. Market and marketing of functional food in Europe. Journal of Food Engineering. 2013; 56(2): 181–188.
  10. 10. Mendonça MS, De Araújo MGP. A semente de bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba Mart. Arecacea): Aspectos morfológicos. Revista Brasileira de Sementes. 1999; 21(1): 122–124.
  11. 11. Mertens-Talcott SU, Rios J, Jilma-Stohlawetz P, Pacheco-Palencia LA, Meibohm B, Talcot ST, Derendorf H. Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in human healthy volunteers. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2008; 56(17), 7796–7802.
  12. 12. Pinto RHH. Extração do óleo de bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba) com CO 2 supercrítico: Parâmetros de processo, perfil de ácidos graxos e aplicação na síntese de nanopartículas de Fe 3 O 4 . Dissertação de Mestrado, Instituto de Tecnologia, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos, Universidade Federal do Pará. 2016: 16–54.
  13. 13. Ulbricht TLV, Southgate DAT. Coronary heart disease: seven dietary factors. The Lancet. 1991; 338(8773): 985–992.
  14. 14. Santos-Silva J, Bessa RJB, Santos-Silva F. Effect of genotype, feeding system and slaughter weight on the quality of light lambs. II. Fatty acid composition of meat. Livestock Production Science. 2002; 77(2): 187–194.
  15. 15. Pérez-Jiménez J, Arranz S, AlvesRE, de Brito ES, Oliveira MS, Saura-Calixto F. Açaí (Euterpe oleraceae) ‘BRS Pará’: a tropical fruit source of antioxidant dietary fiber and high antioxidant capacity oil. Food Research International. 2011; 44(7): 2100–2106.
  16. 16. Halliwell B. Antioxidants in human health and disease. Annual Review of Nutrition. 1996; 16(1): 33–50.
  17. 17. Aruoma OI. Free radicals, oxidative stress, and antioxidants in human health and disease. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 1998; 75(2): 199–212.
  18. 18. Devasagayam TPA, Tilak JC, Boloor KK, Sane KS, Ghaskadbi SS, Lele RD. Free radicals and antioxidants in human health: current status and future prospects. Japi. 2004; 52(794804): 4.
  19. 19. Zafra‐Stone S, Yasmin T, Bagchi M, Chatterjee A, Vinson JA, Bagchi D. Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2007; 51(6): 675–683.
  20. 20. Simopoulos, AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2002; 56(8): 365–379.
  21. 21. Mataix J. Lipiodos alimentarios. In: Mataix J, Gil A (eds). Libro blanco de los Omega-3. Madrid: Instituto Omega-3. 2002: 14–32.
  22. 22. Calder PC. Mechanisms of action of (n-3) fatty acids. The Journal of Nutrition. 2012; 142(3): 592S–599S.
  23. 23. Martin CA, Almeida VV, Ruiz MR, Visentainer JEL, Matshushita M, Souza NE, et al. Ácidos graxos poliinsaturados ômega-3 e ômega-6: importância e ocorrência em alimentos. Revista de Nutrição. 2006; 19(6): 761–770.
  24. 24. Lima JRO, Silva RB, Silva CM. Bidiesel de babaçu (Orgignya sp.) obtido por via etanólica. Química Nova. 2007; 30(3): 600–603.
  25. 25. Tavares M, Aued-Pimentel S, Lamardo LCA, Campos NC, Jorge LIF, et al. Composição química e estudo anatômico dos frutos de buriti do Município de Buritizal, Estado de São Paulo. Revista Instituto Adolfo Lutz. 2003; 3(62): 227–232.
  26. 26. Rogez H. Açaí: Preparo, Composição e Melhoramento da Conservação. EDUFPA. 2000: 313.
  27. 27. Yuyama LKO, Aguiar JPL, Yuyama K, Clement CR, MacedoSHM, Fávaro DIT., et al. Chemical composition of the fruit mesocarp of three peach palm (Bactrisgasipaes) populations grown in Central Amazonia, Brazil. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2003; 54(1): 49–56.
  28. 28. Rodrigues AMC, Darnet S, Silva LHM. Fatty acid profiles and tocopherol contents of buriti (Mauritia flexuosa), patawa (Oenocarpus bataua), tucuma (Astrocaryum vulgare), mari (Poraqueiba paraensis) and inaja (Maximiliana maripa) fruits. Journal of the Brazilian Chemical Society. 2010; 21(10): 2000–2004.
  29. 29. Montúfar R, Laffargue A, Pintaud J-C, Hamon S, Avallone S, Dussert S. Oenocarpusbataua Mart. (Arecaceae): rediscovering a source of high oleic vegetable oil from Amazonia. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 2010; 87(2): 167–172.
  30. 30. Santos MFG, Alves RE, Ruíz-Méndez MV. Minor components in oils obtained from amazonian palm fruits. Grasas y Aceites. 2013; 64(5): 531–536.
  31. 31. Wallace FA, Miles EA, Calder PC. Comparison of the effects of linseed oil and different doses of fish oil on mononuclear cell function in healthy human subjects. British Journal of Nutrition. 2003; 89(5): 679–689.
  32. 32. Schwab JM, Serhan CN. Lipoxins and new lipid mediators in the resolution of inflammation. Current Opinion in Pharmacology. 2006; 6(4): 414–420.
  33. 33. Serhan CN, Hong S, Gronert K, Colgan SP, Devchand PR, Mirick G, et al. Resolvins: a family of bioactive products of omega-3 fatty acid transformation circuits initiated by aspirin treatment that counter proinflammatory signals. The Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2002; 196(8): 1025–1037.
  34. 34. Calder PC. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients. 2010; 2(3): 355–374.
  35. 35. Wang L, Weller CL. Recent advances in extraction of nutraceuticals from plants. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2006; 17(6): 300–312.
  36. 36. Cipriano, PA. Antocianinas de açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) e casca de jabuticaba (Myrciaria jaboticaba) na formação de bebidas isotônicas. Dissertação (Mestrado)—Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa, MG, 2011.
  37. 37. Castaneda-Ovando A, de Lourdes Pacheco-Hernández M, Páez-Hernández ME, Rodríguez JÁ, Galán-Vidal C. A. Chemical studies of anthocyanins: a review. Food Chemistry. 2009; 113(4): 859–871.
  38. 38. Nicoué EE, Savard S, BelkacemiK. Anthocyanins in wild blueberries of Quebec: extraction and identification. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2007; 55(14): 5626–5635.
  39. 39. Terci DBL. Aplicações analíticas e didáticas de antocianinas extraídas de frutas. Tese (Doutorado em Química Analítica)—Instituto de Química da UNICAMP, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, SP, 2004: 231.
  40. 40. Finco FDBA, Kammerer DR, Carle R, TsengWH. Antioxidant activity and characterization of phenolic compounds from bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba Mart.) fruit by HPLC-DAD-MSn. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2010; 60(31): 7665−7673.
  41. 41. Sellappan S, Akoh CC, Krewer G. Phenolic compounds and antioxidant capacity of Georgia-grown blueberries and blackberries. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2002; 50(8): 2432–2438.
  42. 42. Gouvêa ACMS, AraujoMCP, Schulz DF, Pacheco S, Godoy RLO, CabralLMC. Anthocyanins standards (cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyaniding-3-O-rutinoside) isolation from freeze-dried açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) by HPLC. Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos. 2012; 32(1): 43–46.
  43. 43. Santos DT, Albarelli JQ, Beppu MM, Meireles MAA. Stabilization of anthocyanin extract from jabuticaba skins by encapsulation using supercritical CO2 as solvent. Food Research International. 2013; 50(2): 617–624.
  44. 44. Paes J, Dotta R, Barbero GF, Martínez J. Extraction of phenolic compounds and anthocyanins from blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) residues using supercritical CO2 and pressurized liquids. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2014; 95: 8–16.
  45. 45. Neves LTBC, Campos DCDS, Mendes JKS, Urnhani CO, Araújo KG. Quality of fruits manually processed of açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) and bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba Mart.). Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura. 2015; 37(3): 729–738.
  46. 46. Francis FJ. Analysis of anthocyanins. In Pericles Markakis. (ed.). Anthocyanins as food colors. New York: Academic Press, 1982. p. 181-207.
  47. 47. Novello AA, Conceição LL, Dias MMS, Cardoso LM, Castro CA,Ricci-Silva ME, et al. Chemical characterization, antioxidant and antiatherogenic activity of anthocyanin-rich extract from Euterpe edulis Mart. in mice. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. 2015; 54(2): 101–112.
  48. 48. Giusti MM, Wrolstad RE. Anthocyanins. Characterization and Measurement with UV-Visible Spectroscopy. In: Wrolstad, R. E. (Ed.). Current Protocols in Food Analytical Chemistry Unit. F1.2.1-13. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001.
  49. 49. Singleton VL, Rossi, JA. Colorimetry of total phenolics with phosphomolybdic–phosphotungstic acid reagents. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. 1965; 16(3): 144–158.
  50. 50. Pacheco-Palencia LA, Duncan CE, Talcott ST. Phytochemical composition and thermal stability of two commercial açai species, Euterpe oleracea and Euterpe precatoria. Food Chemistry. 2009; 115(4): 1199–1205.
  51. 51. Schreckinger ME, Lotton J, Lila MA, de Mejia EG. Berries from South America: a comprehensive review on chemistry, health potential, and commercialization. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2010; 13(2): 233–246.
  52. 52. Portinho JA, Zimmermann LM, Bruck MR. Efeitos Benéficos do Açaí. International Journal of Nutrology. 2012; 5(1): 15–20.
  53. 53. Santos MFG, Mamede RVS, Rufino MSM, Brito ES, Alves RE. Amazonian native palm fruits as sources of antioxidant bioactive compounds. Antioxidants. 2015; 4(3): 591–602.
  54. 54. Fellows PJ. Tecnologia do processamento de alimentos: princípios e prática. 2. ed. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 2006. 602 p.
  55. 55. Canuto GAB, Xavier AAO, Neves LC, Benassi MDT. Caracterização físico-química de polpas de frutos da Amazônia e sua correlação com a atividade anti-radical livre. Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura. 2010; 32(4): 1196–1205.
  56. 56. Muniz MAP, dos Santos MNF, da Costa CEF, Morais L, Lamarão MLN, Ribeiro-Costa RM, et al. Physicochemical characterization, fatty acid composition, and thermal analysis of Bertholletia excelsa HBK oil. Pharmacognosy Magazine. 2015; 11(41): 147–151.
  57. 57. Silva LB, Queiroz MB, Fadini AL, da Fonseca RC, Germer SP, Efraim P. Chewy candy as a model system to study the influence of polyols and fruit pulp (açai) on texture and sensorial properties. LWT-Food Science and Technology. 2016; 65: 268–274.
  58. 58. Moretto E, Fett R. Tecnologia de óleos e gorduras vegetais na indústria de alimentos. São Paulo: Varela, 1998.
  59. 59. Ramalho HF, Suarez PA. A química dos óleos e gorduras e seus processos de extração e refino. Revista Virtual Química. 2013; 5: 2–15.
  60. 60. Souza ADV, Fávaro SP, Ítavo LCV, Roscoe R. Caracterização química de sementes e tortas de pinhão manso, nabo forrageiro e crambe. Pesquisa Agropecuária Brasileira. 2009; 44(10): 1328–1335.
  61. 61. Pighinelli AL, Park KJ, Rauen AM, Oliveira RAD. Otimização da prensagem de grãos de girassol e sua caracterização. Revista Brasileira de Engenharia Agrícola e Ambiental. 2009; 13(1): 63–67.
  62. 62. Berk Z, Marcondes Borge J, Pena S, Alvarez Arancedo M, Spagnolo R, Wilmart A. Technology of production of edible flours and protein products from soybeans. Technologie de production de farines alimentaires et de produits protéiques issus du soja (No. FAO ASB-97) FAO, Roma (Italia). 1992. Available from: [Accessed 13th August 2016].
  63. 63. Pradhan RC, Meda V, Rout PK, Naik S, Dalai AK. Supercritical CO2 extraction of fatty oil from flax seed and comparison with screw press expression and solvent extraction processes. Journal of Food Engineering. 2010; 98(4): 393–397.
  64. 64. Ghosh R. Principles of bioseparations engineering. World Scientific, McMaster University, Canada. 2006: 282.
  65. 65. Amarn iF, Kadi H. Kinetics study of microwave-assisted solvent extraction of oil from olive cake using hexane: comparison with the conventional extraction. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies. 2010; 11(2): 322–327.
  66. 66. Danlami JM, Arsad A, Zaini MAA. Characterization and process optimization of castor oil (Ricinuscommunis L.) extracted by the soxhlet method using polar and non-polar solvents. Journal of the Taiwan Institute of Chemical Engineers. 2015; 47: 99–104.
  67. 67. Pessoa AS, Podestá R, Block JM, Franceschi E, Dariva C, Lanza M. Extraction of pequi (Caryocarcoriaceum) pulpoil using subcritical propane: determination of process yield and fatty acid profile. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2015; 101: 95–103.
  68. 68. Kartika IA, Evon P, Cerny M, Suparno O, Hermawan D, Ariono D, et al. Simultaneous solvent extraction and transesterification of jatropha oil for biodiesel production, and potential application of the obtained cakes for binder less particle board. Fuel. 2016; 181: 870–877.
  69. 69. Nascimento ADP, Soares LAL, Stragevitch L, Danielski, L. Extraction of Acrocomia intumescens drude oil with supercritical carbon dioxide: process modeling and comparison with organic solvent extractions. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2016; 111: 1–7.
  70. 70. Toda TA, Sawada MM, Rodrigues, CE. Kinetics of soybean oil extraction using ethanol as solvent: experimental data and modeling. Food and Bioproducts Processing. 2016; 98: 1–10.
  71. 71. Ribeiro MC, Vilas Boas EVB, Riul TR, Pantoja L, Marinho HA, Santos AS. Influence of the extraction method and storage time on the physicochemical properties and carotenoid levels of pequi (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) oil. Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos. 2012; 32(2): 386–392.
  72. 72. Brunner G. Gas extraction: an introduction to fundamentals of supercritical fluids and the application to separation process. New York: Springer. 1994: 386.
  73. 73. Carrilho E, Tavares MCH, Lanças FM. Fluidos supercríticos em química analítica. I. cromatografia com fluido supercrítico: conceitos termodinâmicos. Química Nova. 2001; 24(4): 509–515.
  74. 74. Castro MDL, Jurado-López A, Luque-Garcia JL. Drug extraction. In: York P, Kompella UB, Shekunov BY (eds). Supercritical fluid technology for drug product development. New York: Marcel Dekker. 2004: 498–531.
  75. 75. Maul AA, Wasicky R, Bacchi EM. Extração por fluido supercrítico. Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia. 1996; 5(2): 185–200.
  76. 76. Dich J, Zahm SH, Hanberg A, Adami HO. Pesticides and cancer. Cancer Causes & Control. 1997; 8(3): 420–443.
  77. 77. Zahm SH, Ward MH, Blair A. Pesticides and cancer. Occupational Medicine. 1997; 12(2): 269.
  78. 78. Sufen G, Xiaojun T. Pesticides and cancer. World Sci-tech R & D. 2005; 2: 006.
  79. 79. Piantino CR, Aquino FWB, Follegatti-Romero LA, Cabral FA. Supercritical CO2 extraction of phenolic compounds from Baccharis dracunculifolia. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2008; 47(2): 209–214.
  80. 80. Herrero M, Mendiola JA, Cifuentes A, Ibáñez E. Supercritical fluid extraction: recent advances and applications. Journal of Chromatography A. 2010; 1217(16): 2495–2511.
  81. 81. Patras A, Brunton NP, O’Donnell C, Tiwari BK. Effect of thermal processing on anthocyanin stability in foods; mechanisms and kinetics of degradation. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2010; 21(1): 3–11.
  82. 82. de Rosso VV, Mercadante AZ. The high ascorbic acid content is the main cause of the low stability of anthocyanin extracts from acerola. Food Chemistry. 2007; 103(3): 935–943.
  83. 83. Vatai T, Škerget M, Knez Ž. Extraction of phenolic compounds from elder berry and different grape marc varieties using organic solvents and/or supercritical carbon dioxide. Journal of Food Engineering. 2009; 90(2): 246–254.
  84. 84. Paula JT, Paviani LC, Foglio MA, Sousa IM, Duarte GH, Jorge MP, et al. Extraction of anthocyanins and luteolin from Arrabidaea chica by sequential extraction in fixed bed using supercritical CO2, ethanol and water as solvents. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2014; 86: 100–107.
  85. 85. Ghafoor K, Park J, Choi Y H. Optimization of supercritical fluid extraction of bioactive compounds from grape (Vitis labrusca B.) peel by using response surface methodology. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies. 2010; 11(3): 485–490.
  86. 86. Floris T, Filippino G, Scrugli S, Pinna MB, Argiolas F, Argiolas A, et al. Antioxidant compounds recovery from grape residues by a supercritical antisolvent assisted process. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2010; 54(2): 165–170.
  87. 87. Seabra IJ, Braga MEM, Batista MT, Sousa HC. Effect of solvent (CO2/ethanol/H2O) on the fractionated enhanced solvent extraction of anthocyanins from elderberry pomace. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2010; 54(2): 145–152.

Written By

Wanessa Almeida da Costa, Mozaniel Santana de Oliveira, Marcilene Paiva da Silva, Vânia Maria Borges Cunha, Rafael Henrique Holanda Pinto, Fernanda Wariss Figueiredo Bezerra and Raul Nunes de Carvalho Junior

Submitted: 31 May 2016 Reviewed: 20 September 2016 Published: 01 March 2017