They have beneficial effects on health due to the consumption of nopal

Since ancestral times in Mexico, the nopal is considered more than a common food since it is not only part of its national symbol, but it is attributed various health qualities that have been proven under various scientific protocols.

Thus, in order to identify if the intake of cactus produces some beneficial effects for health, Patrick Mailloux Salinas, a researcher at the Department of Pharmacobiology of Cinvestav South Headquarters, found that the consumption of dehydrated cactus produces benefits by promoting greater tolerance to the glucose; increase in antioxidant capacity; and reduction of cholesterol levels in combination with an exercise regimen.

In an animal model with normopeso, it was observed that the ingestion of cactus produces these three effects with respect to the control animals “, explained Mailloux Salinas, assigned to the laboratory of Guadalupe Bravo, who studies the alterations caused by obesity.

The scientists used cactus dehydrating in order to evaluate different presentations, both lipid and watery, to compare which offered a greater hypoglycaemic effect on high concentrations in blood and found that the best presentation was the lipid type.

The research protocol used, in the first instance, an animal model of rat with normal weight, “we wanted to see an acute effect and to verify if indeed the cactus had a hypoglycemic effect in animals with normal weight,” said Patrick Mailloux.

Researchers to determine the blood glucose levels in the experimental groups applied a technique called the glucose tolerance curve; it consists in the oral administration of a high concentration thereof.

This was carried out in the presence and absence of the cactus extract. They observed that the plant had a hypoglycaemic effect, suggesting that it could, under these conditions, be a good candidate for the treatment of diabetes, where elevated blood glucose levels are present.

The study also applied histology techniques with which they could observe the microarchitecture of different organs, mainly of the pancreas that produces the hormone of insulin and they noticed that the pancreatic islets, where the insulin-producing cells are located, decreased in size with the treatment of cactus extract.

This indicates that insulin receptor sensitization is optimized and this in turn easily allows the glucose to enter the cell and, therefore, lower blood concentrations.

An important part of the experiment was to relate cactus consumption to exercise, its effect was evaluated alone and in combination with nopal; It was observed that the beneficial effect is enhanced with exercise indicating favorable changes in histology, glucose tolerance and oxidative stress analysis.

The beneficial effects of cactus extract were observed in each of the techniques that were applied and even when doing blood chemistry. In this, a decrease in total cholesterol levels was reported, “Our data showed, in the group with extract, a decrease in cholesterol levels significantly different from the control group,” said Patrick Mailloux.

Cinvestav’s research confirms that nopal intake does have beneficial effects and the next step is to study it with other adjuvants with or without hypoglycaemic properties to enhance its effect.

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