Medicinal Use Of The Latin Food Staple Nopales: The Prickly Pear Cactus
The nopal has been used as a medicinal plant and is a hallmark vegetable in the Latin American diet. Various studies have demonstrated Opuntia s ability to affect blood glucose and hypercholesterolemia. The intake of prickly pear pectin decreases plasma LDL levels, increases expression of apolipoprotein receptor expression, increases hepatic LDL turnover, and affects cholesterol homeostasis in guinea pigs. Prickly pear pectin, however does not affect absorption of cholesterol in guinea pigs. The prickly pear cactus demonstrates the ability to decrease blood glucose levels as well the hyperglycemic peak during glucose tolerance testing. In addition, Opuntia has demonstrated the ability to control experimentally induced diabetes. Similar studies, along with domestic surveys have prompted international evaluation of the prickly pear cactus to determine its ability to regulate glucose utilization. Currently, homeopathic industries have begun to incorporate opuntia into supplements intended to help regulate plasma glucose levels.