Does Opuntia Cactus Have Health Benefits? Essay

Does Opuntia Cactus Have Health Benefits?

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Diabetess is a immense wellness job that affects people of all walks of life.The American Diabetes Association claims that Diabetes affects 9.3 per centum of the American Population ( American Diabetes Association ) , and the World Health Organization estimates that 347 million people are affected worldwide. ( World Health Organization ) Generally diabetes is controlled through insulin injections or pumps, and through modifying the sick persons diet to avoid things which can raise blood sugar, such as saccharides and sugary nutrients. In add-on to these normal control steps, there has been involvement, and a modest sum of research dedicated to happening out whether or non the Prickly Pear cactus, Cactuses of the Genus Opuntia have a good consequence on the wellness of people with diabetes. Opuntia Cactuses, popularly known as Nopal, are normally consumed throughout Mexico and the Mexican community in the United States and Elsewhere, and have been introduced around the universe. Opuntia cactuses were besides normally used as herbal medical specialty by the Mexican, and autochthonal communities. ( University of Texas ) These cactuses grow bountifully in the natural state, and are besides grown widely for agricultural utilizations. This widespread handiness means that any ascertained wellness benefit could potentially be a great blessing to disease intervention. I will chiefly concentrate on the information sing the diabetes research and the Opuntia genus of cactuses, but I will besides discourse some of the other interesting medical research that has surrounded this common works.

Harmonizing to a paper by the Botanist M. Patrick Griffith, Opuntia Cactuses have been used medicinally since at least the fifteenth century. The cactuses contain Vitamin C, which made them an effectual intervention for scorbutus, and besides contributed to their spread around the universe. Harmonizing to one of his paper’s in the American Journal of Bontany: Opuntia Cactuss were “Widely included in ships’ shops as insurance against scorbutus [ … ] This pattern is thought to hold contributed greatly to the present established scope of Opuntia ficus-indica throughout waterless and semiarid home grounds of the world” ( Griffith, 1916 )

Some of the earliest research on the connexion between Opuntia cactus and blood sugar happened during the 1990s. In one such experiment during this clip period a squad led by Christine Aguilar, and Gilbert Ramirez analyzed a series of surveies that discovered that when given a dosage of 500 g of Opuntia Cactus, patients with type-2 diabetes had a little lessening in blood serum glucose degrees, and some other general betterments in their status. Harmonizing to Ramirez and Aguilar: “ meta-analysis suggests Opuntia has a strong serum glucose decrease consequence. Further reappraisal of these surveies besides indicate betterment in insulin degrees, serum lipoids, and organic structure weight. “ ( Aguilar, Ramirez 73 ) Despite the promising consequences, the sample size of the surveies was non really big, and a batch more research was required.

Figure I – Table demoing the lessening in Serum Glucose at different clip Time intervals after dose. “0” is the get downing baseline. ( Aguilar, Ramirez 77 )

A twelvemonth after Ramirez and Aguilar published their research, another squad led by a scientist named Augusto Trejo-Gonzalez was able to retroflex the same consequences in rats. He discovered that if he fed diabetic rats a combination of insulin and Opuntia abstract, that the rats would go on to hold reduced blood serum degrees even after being taken off of insulin. He was certain that the consequences were really from the Opuntia infusion, because the dose made it improbable that other factors could hold had much of an influence. In his paper he says that “Although the mechanism of action is unknown, the magnitude of the glucose control by the little sum of Opuntia infusion required ( 1 mg/kg organic structure weight per twenty-four hours ) preclude a prevailing function for dietetic fibre. These really encouraging consequences for diabetes control by the purified infusion of this Opuntia cactus make the demand for clinical surveies in worlds evident” ( Trejo-Gonzalez )

It is non until the 2000’s that that there were important surveies in which person had taken up Trejo-Gonzalez’s call for more human clinical surveies. During 2007, Montserrat Bacardi-Gascon published a study in “Diabetes Care” that examined the consequence that could be observed from adding Opuntia Cactus to Mexican breakfasts. Harmonizing to the study: “These findings demonstrate that the add-on of nopales to the usual Mexican breakfast among type 2 diabetic topics induced a decrease in glucose concentration after the repast. The decrease in glycemic index obtained for the three repasts was 21, 12, and 15 glycemic index units.” ( Bacardi-Gascon 1264 )

What is important about this, is that glycemic index is a step of how much a specific repast will increase blood serum glucose degrees. Harmonizing to the Glycemic Index Institute “ In simple footings, nutrients can be assigned a glycemic index figure based on the comparative additions in blood glucose ( sugar ) degrees they produce when that nutrient is consumed ” ( Glycemic Index Institute )

This means that the decrease of the glycemic index that Bacardi-Gascon had observed when Opuntia was added to the diet could potentially interpret to a big difference in ultimate blood sugar degrees coming from the repast.

Figure II – Prepared Opuntia Cactus, popularly known as “Nopal” or “Nopalitos” as portion of a salad. ( Gonzalez del Cueto )

The consequences of all these surveies showed a batch of promise, but there is still much more to be learned – there is no conclusive informations on the existent mechanism that caused an betterment in the status of diabetic patients, and it is non proven beyond all possible uncertainty that the consequences were wholly caused by the. Despite the deficiency of clear information in this regard, there have been some other finds that can help us in understanding possible effects of Opuntia cactus on other facets of wellness. Part of the colouring of Opuntia fruit is caused by a pigment called Indicaxanthin. In 2004, a squad of research workers from the University of Palermo discovered that this pigment, at least in Italian assortments of Opuntia, was verified to be have anti-oxidant belongingss. In an test the squad compared the antioxidant belongingss of Indicaxanthin to Trolox, an anti-oxidant commonly used as a standard baseline when proving anti-oxidant effects. Harmonizing to this team’s study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry “the extracts dose-dependently inhibited the organic hydroperoxide-stimulated ruddy cell membrane lipid oxidization, every bit good as the metal-dependent and -independent low-density lipoprotein oxidization. The infusion from the white fruit showed the highest protection in all theoretical accounts of lipid oxidization. Purified betanin and indicaxanthin were more effectual than Trolox” ( Butera et al ) This information confirmed the antioxidant belongingss of indicaxanthin, and besides indicated that betanin, another pigment in Opuntia fruit, besides likely played an antioxidant function.

In 2014 another squad of research workers followed up on this experiment by proving whether or non indicaxanthin had any effects on the leukocyte production of rats in which pleurisy ( swelling of tissues environing the lungs ) had been induced. ( Leukocytes being a step of inflammatory activity ) The squad killed the rats at assorted clip intervals after holding been induced with pleurisy, and discovered that those rats who had been pre-treated with indicaxanthin had a lower postmortem leucocyte measuring than those were non treated with indicaxanthin. The abstract of the team’s study concludes that “When sing the high bioavailability of indicaxanthin in worlds, our findings suggest that this dietetic pigment has the potency to better wellness and prevent inflammation-based disorders.” ( Allegra et al )

Despite the research on the topic, it must be remembered that this research is still in the preliminary phases, and has non at this point met the strict criterions required in order to hold conclusive cogent evidence that the Opuntia cactus has medical usage. Until many more surveies are done, with larger Numberss of people, and with better controls, the consequences will stay inconclusive. For this ground, no authorities bureaus endorse Nopales to handle any unwellness. This being said, the USDA National Nutrient Database does describe that Opuntia cactus has important nutritionary value when eaten as a vegetable. At this clip there is has yet to be adequate research to state once and for all whether or non there are anymedicalbenefits from the ingestion of Nopales, but we can easy reason that the nutritionary value is important plenty that it could be a benefit to certain people’s overall nutrition, and that Nopales are a valuable add-on to any diet, so long as the individual devouring the nutrient is non allergic or otherwise unable to decently digest the nutrient. The possible effects on blood sugar and on redness are extremely bad, but we can merely trust that future research on Opuntia, and other common workss which may hold medical applications will let us to travel beyond the kingdom of inconclusive surveies and anecdotal herbal medical specialty, and will give us more replies so that we may detect valuable new ways to handle enfeebling unwellnesss like diabetes.

Figure III – Nutritional Content of Nopal Cactus. ( United States Department of Agriculture )

Plants Cited

Allegra, Mario, et Al. “ Indicaxanthin from Cactus Pear Fruit Exerts Anti-Inflammatory Effects in Carrageenin-Induced Rat Pleurisy. “ [ Abstract ]The Journal of nutrition144.2 ( 2014 ) : 185-192.

“ Statisticss About Diabetes. ” American Diabetes Association. 10 June 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Bacardi-Gascon, Montserrat, Dulce Duenas-Mena, and Arturo Jimenez-Cruz. “ Lowering consequence on postprandial glycemic response of nopales added to Mexican breakfasts. ” Diabetes attention

30.5 ( 2007 ) : 1264-1265.

Butera, D, L Tesoriere, Gaudio F. Di, A Bongiorno, M Allegra, AM Pintaudi, R Kohen, and MA Livrea. “ Antioxidant Activities of Sicilian Prickly Pear ( opuntia Ficus Indica ) Fruit Extracts and Reducing Properties of Its Betalains: Betanin and Indicaxanthin. ” [ Abstract ]Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 50.23 ( 2002 ) : 6895-901. Print.

Griffith, M. Patrick. “ The beginnings of an of import cactus harvest, Opuntia ficus-indica ( Cactaceae ) : new molecular grounds. ”American Journal of Botany91.11 ( 2004 ) : 1915-1921.

Gutierrez, Miguel Angel. Medicinal Use Of The Latin Food Staple Nopales: The Prickly Pear Cactus.Nutrition Bytes. ( 1998 ) Web. 12 Nov. 2014

“ Glycemic Index Defined. ”Glycemic Research Institute. Glycemic Research Institute, 2006. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: // & A ; gt ; .

EnsaladaNopales”. 2004. By Fernando Gonzalez Del Cueto. Web 12 Nov 2014

& A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: // EnsaladaNopales.jpg & A ; gt ;

Ramirez, Gilbert, and Christine Aguilar. “ The consequence of Opuntia in take downing serum glucose among NIDDM patients. A systematic review–Preliminary Findingss. ” Proceedings: I Conference of the Professional Association for Cactus Development. 1995.

Trejo-Gonzalez, Augusto, et Al. “ A purified infusion from bristly pear cactus ( Opuntia fuliginosa ) controls by experimentation induced diabetes in rats. “ Journal of Ethnopharmacology 55.1 ( 1996 ) : 27-33.

United States Department of Agriculture. “ Nopales, Raw. ”USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22. USDA, 2009. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

“ Medicative Uses of Mesoamerican Plants. ” University of Texas. University of Texas. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.


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