Acerola, also known as West Indian cherry, is rich in ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C, and is one of the natural sources of abundant vitamin C. It also contains a large amount of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, phenolics, anthocyanins, and flavonoids. Acerola’s nutritional content has various biological functions and excellent antioxidant activity, making it considered a superfruit.
Acerola offers benefits such as antioxidant properties, skin whitening, and promoting collagen synthesis. Due to its high natural vitamin C content, it is typically consumed in processed forms such as pulp, juice, puree, jam, and jelly. Because of its health benefits, there are now many vitamin C dietary supplements extracted from acerola available in the global market, providing it as one of the nutritional supplement choices for the public.
What is Acerola?
Acerola, originally from tropical countries like South America and southern Mexico, prefers to grow in dry sandy soils with abundant sunlight. Its fruit is edible, and it is now widely cultivated in other regions due to its excellent health benefits. Different acids, such as citric acid, malic acid, benzoic acid, and 2-ketoglutaric acid, were also found in acerola extract, and according to research, the antioxidant activity of acerola juice depends on the synergistic effect of different components, with the most important ones being polyphenolic compounds and vitamin C.
Five Key Benefits of Acerola
Promotes Collagen Formation
Acerola is rich in vitamin C, which plays a vital role in the synthesis of collagen in the body and has been proven to promote collagen formation and improve skin structure. Sufficient vitamin C is required to assist in the synthesis of collagen in the body, and vitamin C helps maintain collagen density in the dermis layer. An experiment found that providing experimental animals with 200 mg/kg of vitamin C daily for treating tibia fractures resulted in significantly better tibia fracture recovery in the animals. This indicates that vitamin C can accelerate bone healing, with increased collagen synthesis and the rate of collagen formation having a positive effect.
Acerola extract contains polyphenolic compounds and vitamin C, which have the ability to eliminate free radicals, with over 90% of free radicals being inhibited. A study found that using acerola powder can enhance the physical, sensory, and antioxidant properties of gluten-free bread, and antioxidant activity increases with an increasing amount of acerola powder. In another cell study, acerola extract was used to measure its antioxidant ability. When cell toxicity and oxidative stress were induced using H2O2, the addition of acerola extract significantly reduced cell toxicity and reactive oxygen species (ROS), indicating its antioxidant ability to protect cells from oxidative stress.
Maintains Bone Health
Acerola extract is rich in vitamin C, and vitamin C is an essential nutrient for maintaining bone health. It can induce the formation of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, and it can also eliminate harmful free radicals for bone health. Many studies have found that vitamin C supplementation can prevent bone loss, and there is a positive correlation between vitamin C supplementation and bone health. Retrospective studies found that higher vitamin C intake is positively correlated with bone mineral density (BMD) in the femoral neck and lumbar spine, and an increased intake of vitamin C can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by 33%.
Facilitates Iron Absorption
Acerola extract is rich in vitamin C, and vitamin C promotes the absorption of heme iron by forming chelates with trivalent iron under acidic conditions. In animal experiments, it was found that when the vitamin C content in experimental animals dropped to 10-15% of the normal level, the animals experienced severe anemia and weight loss after 5 weeks, with severe cases resulting in death. Clinical human experiments also found that severe vitamin C deficiency leads to iron-deficiency anemia.
Immune Regulation and Cancer Prevention
Acerola contains flavonoids, which are believed to play an important role in cancer prevention. Current research suggests that flavonoids can prevent cancer by inhibiting proliferation, inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, preventing oxidation, inducing detoxifying enzymes, and regulating the host immune system. Vitamin C, one of the components abundant in acerola, can inhibit the growth of tumor cells like T cells by regulating immune system cells against tumor cells in breast, colon, rectal, and melanoma cancers. In addition, a cell study used radioactive isotope iodine-131 to damage liver cancer cell DNA. They conducted the study using acerola pulp and synthesized β-carotene to examine the protective effects of these two substances against cell damage. The results found that using acerola pulp together with β-carotene could significantly reduce DNA damage, and using acerola alone also significantly reduced DNA damage, while using β-carotene alone did not produce similar results. Therefore, the authors believe that acerola can help protect cells and prevent DNA mutation or damage.
Recommended Intake of Acerola
There is currently no recommended intake amount for acerola. Since it contains abundant vitamin C, it is suggested that individuals evaluate their intake based on the product label and the daily intake recommended by the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare: 60-80 mg for children and 100 mg for adolescents and adults. Vitamin C is water-soluble and can be easily lost. Increased demand occurs during stressful situations, illness, or high oxidative stress. Daily intakes of 500-1000 mg in such situations are considered safe.
Does Acerola Have Side Effects?
Acerola is rich in vitamin C, and its vitamin C content is not as high as chemically synthesized high-purity vitamin C. Therefore, its safety in supplementation is very high, and many clinical studies on high-purity vitamin C also generally consider vitamin C supplementation to be very safe, with minimal side effects. However, it is recommended that individuals follow the daily upper intake limits suggested by the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare when taking vitamin C. These upper intake limits are as follows:
|Age||Upper Intake Limit|
|1-3 years||400 milligrams|
|4-9 years||650 milligrams|
|10-12 years||1200 milligrams|
|13-18 years||1800 milligrams|
|19 years and above||2000 milligrams|