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Opuntia cladodes (nopal): Emerging functional food and dietary supplement

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Opuntia cacti are found in prolific abundance in arid regions of the world. The fleshy stems (paddles or nopals) have been a staple vegetable in many parts of Latin America (Central America and Mexico) since long. Even the Southwest US population have developed an interest in them. Now, they have been validated to be good sources of vital phytonutrients viz. dietary fibres, vitamins, minerals, mucilage, pectin. The succulent pads packed with nutrition are envisioned to be imbibed in foods for nutritional augmentation. Apart from additives, the mucilage-opulent cladodes have shown promise as encapsulating agents. Several biological roles of nopal viz. antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-ulcerogenic, anticancer, and hypoglycaemic have been authenticated. This review embodies the recent findings, risks associated, current trends of investigations and untapped potentials of this xerophytic resource. Wide consumption and mass cultivation of nopal is expected to play the dual role of supplying nutrition and averting food insecurity.
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Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism 7 (2014) 11–19
IOS Press
Opuntia cladodes (nopal): Emerging
functional food and dietary supplement
Seema Patel
Bioinformatics and Medical Informatics Research Center, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA
Received 4 October 2013; accepted 13 November 2013
Abstract. Opuntia cacti are found in prolific abundance in arid regions of the world. The fleshy stems (paddles or nopals)
have been a staple vegetable in many parts of Latin America (Central America and Mexico) since long. Even the Southwest
US population have developed an interest in them. Now, they have been validated to be good sources of vital phytonutrients viz.
dietary fibres, vitamins, minerals, mucilage, pectin. The succulent pads packed with nutrition are envisioned to be imbibed in foods
for nutritional augmentation. Apart from additives, the mucilage-opulent cladodes have shown promise as encapsulating agents.
Several biological roles of nopal viz. antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-ulcerogenic, anticancer, and hypoglycaemic
have been authenticated. This review embodies the recent findings, risks associated, current trends of investigations and untapped
potentials of this xerophytic resource. Wide consumption and mass cultivation of nopal is expected to play the dual role of
supplying nutrition and averting food insecurity.
Keywords: Nopal, functional food, antioxidant, anti-inflammation, antidiabetic
1. Introduction
Meeting the demand of nutritious food for the ever-expanding, world population is a huge challenge. Amidst this
grim scenario, discovery of an inexpensive yet wholesome natural food source can be a great relief. In this regard,
the xerophytes cacti hold immense promise. The cladodes of several cacti belonging to family Cactaceae have been
evaluated to be safe and healthy, worthy of inclusion in food platter. So far, Opuntia ficus-indica or prickly pear
cladodes (paddle or nopal) have gained fair popularity.
The spines on the paddles are removed and the fleshy pads are consumed fresh, cooked, dried or as juice (Fig. 1).
The paddles are full of antioxidants, dietary fibres, vitamins (A, B complex and C) and minerals (Ca, Mg and Fe).
Even, the erstwhile civilizations of Central America, the Aztec and Maya people devoured them. The paddles have
been a staple of Mexican cuisine since pre-Hispanic era. They have recently gained popularity in the USA, especially
in Latino (California, Arizona) and Tejano (Texas)-populated regions. Several species of Opuntia grow wild in
deserts, high altitude volcanic regions of Mexico, and chaparrals of US Southwest (Fig. 2). O. ficus-indica is farmed
in several thousands of hectares in the arid and semiarid regions of Mexico and the paddles are shipped in tons to
other countries.
Since ancient times, nopal is being used in folk medicine to cure a variety of ailments. It’s used as anti-infective,
anti-diarrheal, diuretic and anti-rheumatic. The tea from the cladodes is used to ease colds, coughs, boils, abscesses,
cystitis, indigestion, gastroeneteritis, diabetes, high blood cholesterol etc. A diverse range of nopal-based snacks and
dietary supplements are now marketed in Mexican and USA markets. This review endeavours to furnish a distilled
account of recent findings and prospects ahead, which is believed to drive consumer awareness for this healthy yet
lesser-known vegetable.
Corresponding author: Seema Patel, Bioinformatics and Medical Informatics Research Center, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile
Dr., San Diego, CA 92182, USA. Tel.: +9409811629; E-mail:
ISSN 1973-798X/14/$27.50 © 2014 – IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved
12 S. Patel / Opuntia cladodes as nutritious food
Fig. 1. (A) Opuntia cladode (B) Opuntia growing wild in slopes of South California.
Vitamin C
Folate Taxifolin
Fig. 2. Biological roles of Opuntia cladodes.
2. Nutritional importance of nopal
Persuasive instances exist to authenticate the food and nutritional supplement potentials of nopal. The recent
validated findings have been discussed below.
3. Food and additives
Nopal tastes tart and is slimy in consistency. It’s consumed in myriad forms viz. raw, grilled or cooked. It’s relished
as tortilla, frittata, fajita, fry, salsa, burrito, salad, soup, stew, jerky juice, smoothie, yoghurt or tamale. Even top
restaurants offer nopal-based delicacies. The possibility of fortifying wheat flour with O. boldinghii Britton cladode
flour for bread making was evaluated. The substitution at 5–10% demonstrated the best baking behaviour and sensory
appeal, with regards to colour, odour, flavour; texture development [1].
Apart from the organoleptic properties, nopal deserves to be incorporated in regular diet for its dietary fibres,
prebiotic potential, vitamins and antimicrobial compounds. The fibre contents of Opuntia cladodes were assessed
for possible development of functional foods [2]. Also, the effect on the expression of GPR43 (a short chain fatty
acids receptor involved in signal transduction mechanisms) was evaluated. This receptor binds with butyrate to
generate different physiological effects in colonocytes. Opuntia diet at 5% concentration had a direct influence on
the quantitative expression of GPR43 [3]. The prebiotic effect of O. ficus-indica cladode mucilage and pectic-derived
S. Patel / Opuntia cladodes as nutritious food 13
Fig. 3. Opuntia cladode as a prebiotic.
oligosaccharides on the cultures and metabolic activity of microbes from the human colon was investigated. The
mucilage-derived oligosaccharide treatment enhanced the lactobacilli growth up to 23.8%, while pectic-derived
oligosaccharides increased the bifidobacteria population by 25%. Addition of these oligosaccharides led to a slight
decrease in pathogens as Enterococci,Staphylococci and Clostridia. Increased levels of the short-chain fatty acids
(SCFA) were attained in the beneficial bacteria cultures by both types of oligosaccharides treatments. Propionate and
butyrate production increased to at least 50%. The findings indicate that nopal could be tapped as a prebiotic source
[4]. The prebiotic mechanism of nopal-derived oligosaccharides has been illustrated in Fig. 3.
The folate content of nopal was assessed by a microbiological assay, using Lactobacillus casei (ATCC 7469)
in enzymatically-treated extracts, to release the bound vitamin. Trienzyme treatment (alpha-amylase-protease-
conjugase) and ELISA protocol determined the folate content at nanogram level [5].
Natural antimicrobial compounds are often sought after to hold back the spoilage microorganisms. The efficacy
of methanolic extracts of O. ficus-indica against Vibrio cholera was determined. Four fluorogenic techniques were
recruited to assess the effect of the extract on membrane integrity of the pathogen. The extract disrupted the cell mem-
branes and raised permeability, leading to decreased cytoplasmic pH and dwindled cellular ATP concentration [6].
4. Edible film and encapsulating agent
Nopal mucilage has demonstrated promise as edible film encapsulating agent for pharmaceutical applications. It
was extracted and characterized by its composition and molecular weight distribution. The ability to form edible
films under different pH conditions and in presence or absence of calcium was determined. It was observed that
mucilage films without addition of calcium have the best water vapour barrier properties and tensile strength [7]. The
microcapsules of gallic acid were generated, using nopal mucilage, which demonstrated pseudoplastic behaviour.
The results indicated that mucilage could be used as wall material for microencapsulation of gallic acid by the spray-
drying process [8]. A cheap and effective natural excipient was developed from the mucilages of O. ficus-indica
and O. stricta. These mucilages showed promise as substitutes of sodium carboxymethylcellulose (NaCMC) for
suspending function in paracetamol formulations [9].
5. Oxidative stress and toxicity mitigation
Nopal has shown ability to improve oxidative status and alleviate stress. The biological effects of consuming
tortillas or bars supplemented with nopal dietary fibre was evaluated. The addition of nopal increased the fibre and
polyphenols content in both foods. The trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity, polyphenols and vitamin C content
increased in volunteer’s plasma after intake. Also, lower levels of glucose, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein
and triglycerides were observed in plasma after the supplementation [10]. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
is associated with multiple factors such as obesity, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress. The effect of nopal
14 S. Patel / Opuntia cladodes as nutritious food
consumption on the development of hepatic steatosis and hepatic oxidative stress was assessed, emphasizing on
the regulation of genes involved in hepatic lipid metabolism. Obese rats fed with a diet containing 4% nopal for
7 week had 50% lower hepatic triacylglycerol than the control group. Also, reduction in hepatomegaly (abnormal
enlargement of liver) and biomarkers of hepatocyte injury such as alanine aminotransferase (ALAT) and aspartate
aminotransferases (ASAT) were observed. Hepatic reactive oxygen species and lipid peroxidation biomarkers were
significantly lower in rats fed nopal compared to the control rats. Furthermore, rats fed the nopal diet had a lower
postprandial serum insulin concentration and a greater liver phosphorylated protein kinase B (pAKT):AKT ratio in
the postprandial state [11].
The fusarial mycotoxins zearalenone is often associated with detrimental food poisoning, leading to reproductive
disorders. The safety and efficacy of O. ficus cladodes in prevention of the deleterious effects of the toxin was
evaluated in mice models. The combined treatment of zearalenone with the lowest tested dose of cactus extracts
(25 mg/kg) showed a total reduction of the toxin-induced oxidative damage for all tested markers [12]. The potency
of cactus cladode extract in counteracting the Aflatoxin B1-induced alterations in oxidative stress markers was
investigated. Healthy BALB/c (20–25 g) male mice were pre-treated by intraperitonial administration of O. ficus-
indica (50 mg/Kg) for 2 weeks. The extract increased the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins p53 and bax while
decreasing the expression of bcl2. The treatment, before or after exposure to the toxin, led to a major slump in the
induced oxidative damage markers and bolstered antioxidant defence, eventually curbing hepatic damage [13]. The
protective effects of regular ingestion of juice of O. ficus indica cladode juice against nickel chloride (NiCl2) toxicity
were evaluated in rat models. The test animals were given 25% of the juice for one month followed by daily injection
of NiCl2for 10 days. Significant increases in lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), ASAT, ALAT activities and as well
as raised cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose levels were observed in the blood of control group. These adverse
changes were not detected in the nopal-administered group which indicates the protective effect of the cactus [14].
The role of O. ficus indica cladode extract against liver damage induced in mice by an organophosphorous insecticide,
the chlorpyrifos was investigated. Both chlorpyrifos and cactus extract were administrated orally via gavages. The
combined treatment resulted in the normalization of ALAT, ASAT, PAL, LDH, cholesterol and albumin levels in
the serum [15]. It was reported that following ingestion of nopal-based tortillas, overall oxidative status of healthy
human volunteers improved [16]. O. humifusa cladodes were investigated for their antioxidant content. The ethyl
acetate fraction from an 80% ethanol extract showed high total phenolic and flavonoid contents. compared to other
fractions. The flavanol taxifolin was identified to be the most abundant phenolic compound [17]. O. ficus-indica
cladode extract when injected intraperitoneally alone or with methotrexate drug for 10 days to rats, could check the
side effects caused by the drug. The extract restored the decreased hematocrit, hemoglobin, white blood cells and
increased the serum biochemical enzyme activities [18].
6. Joint pain relief
Osteoarthritis is known to be a debilitating disease for which natural remedies are constantly sought-after. The anti-
inflammatory effect of lyophilised extracts obtained from O. ficus indica (L.) cladode was determined and compared
with that of hyaluronic acid. The key molecules (nitric oxide (NO), glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), prostaglandins
(PGE2) and reactive oxygen species (ROS)) released from the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1(IL-1)-
stimulated human chondrocyte cultures were measured. Further, the antioxidant effect of these extracts was evaluated
by DPPH test. The chondro-protective effect of the extracts by suppression of harmful effects of IL-1was revealed.
Also, its superiority over hyaluronic acid in ameliorating the arthritic pain came forth [19]. The effect of calcium
intake from a vegetable source on bone mineral density and calciuria in menopausal and non-menopausal women
with low bone mass was evaluated. The two-year study revealed that the consumption of nopal improved bone mineral
density in the total hip and lumbar spine regions, maintaining constant and normal calciuria levels [20].
7. Wound healing
Plant polysaccharides have oft-been validated to possess wound healing properties. In this regard, the potential
of two lyophilized polysaccharide extracts obtained from O. ficus-indica (L.) cladodes was evaluated in rat injury
S. Patel / Opuntia cladodes as nutritious food 15
models. When topically applied for 6 days, the polysaccharides exerted a repairing effect on the cutaneous lesions.
Re-epithelization and remodelling by influencing the cell-matrix interactions and modulating laminin deposition was
derived to be the therapeutic mechanism. It was observed that polysaccharides with molecular weight ranging from
104–106Da and hygroscopic, rheological and viscoelastic attributes are better suited for wound-nursing [21].
8. Cancer prevention
Selenium is an essential micro-nutrient with crucial role in redox reactions and ability to curb oxidative stress in
cells. Several studies have reported the anti-metastatic capacity of dietary selenium supplementation [22]. A series
of spectroscopic and enzymatic digestion tests were conducted to detect selenium in the cladodes of opuntia. It
was concluded that opuntia is a secondary selenium-accumulating plant whose cladode contain mostly free seleno-
cystathionine and SeMet. When consumed, the organic forms in the cladode are expected to improve health by
augmenting selenium intake and thus, help in prevention of multiple human cancers [23]. O. ficus-indica extract was
investigated for its efficacy against benzo(a)pyrene-induced liver injury and related mechanisms in Balb/C mice. The
genotoxin triggers DNA damage as manifested in chromosomal aberrations of bone marrow cells. Also, it promotes
the expression of bcl2, lowering that of bax. The cactus extract administered prior to or following the toxin exposure,
negated the detrimental effects. Modulation of the expression of p53 was elucidated to be the protective mechanism
against the mutagenesis risk [24].
9. Diabetes management
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic syndrome characterized by abnormally high blood glucose level. Nopal is the
most commonly used herbal hypoglycaemic among people of Mexican descent. A systematic review of 58 controlled
clinical trials was conducted on individuals with diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. Nopal showed positive
preliminary results, warranting further research [25]. Also, a survey on perception of Hispanics regarding diabetes
was conducted. Many of them responded that nopal consumption can attenuate the risk of the metabolic disorder
[26]. The hypoglycaemic effects of polysaccharides, prepared from O. monacantha cladodes were determined. It
decreased the water consumption, increased food intake and improved the control in blood glucose and serum lipid
levels of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. The mechanism of hypoglycemic action was assumed to be similar
with anti-diabetic drug, dimethylbiguanide [27]. The influence of ethnicity as a predictor of the use of complementary
and alternative medicine (CAM) among diabetes patients was evaluated. A questionnaire was administered to 806
participants, to which Hispanics reported using nopal as CAM [28]. It was determined whether O. humifusa stem
regulates blood glucose levels and hypolipidemic responses in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. After 7 weeks
of treatment, the fasting blood glucose and triglyceride levels of the opuntia groups were significantly lower when
compared to control group. Decrease in serum total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, ALAT and ASAT
was reported. On the other hand, increase in serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and relative beta cell volume
of pancreas was observed [29]. The effects of O. ficus-indica complex on blood glucose metabolism were investigated
in db/db mice for a period of 4 weeks. Histopathological analysis showed that the morphology of pancreatic islets was
improved in the Opuntia-treated db/db mice. Histochemical and immunological tests confirmed the enhanced insulin
production from the pancreatic islets and increase in the number of -cells [30]. The effects of an O. ficus-indica
cladode aqueous extract and a proprietary stem/fruit skin-blend (stem/fruit skin ratio 75/25) on blood glucose and
plasma insulin was investigated in normal rats. Oral administration of the extract in a dose range of 6–176 mg/kg
exerted maximum effect on blood glucose and insulin. The proprietary blend significantly increased the basal plasma
insulin level indicating a direct action and superior effect than the extract on the pancreatic beta cells [31]. The effects
of a dietary pattern (a blend of soy protein, nopal, chia seed and oat) on the cardiovascular disease and diabetes
were evaluated. In this randomized trial, the dietary pattern group had decreased serum total glycerol and C-reactive
protein. Also, the participants in this group had a greater decrease in body weight [32]. The anti-hyperglycemic effects
of two extracts of O. streptacantha cladodes were investigated. The filtered extracts contained (4-hydroxy)-phenyl
acetic acid derivate which when administered to STZ-diabetic rats before oral glucose tolerance test, improved the
16 S. Patel / Opuntia cladodes as nutritious food
glycaemic control by blocking the hepatic glucose output, especially in the fasting state [33]. Korean Food and Drug
Administration (KFDA) also approves O. streptacantha as an effective antidiabetic herbal ingredient [34].
10. Effect of processing, maturity and cultivars
The effects of air-drying flow rates on the amount and antioxidant capacity of O. ficus indica cladode extracts
were evaluated. Nopal drying at 45C and air flow rate of 3m/sec showed higher values of phenols, flavonoids and
flavonols. The air flow rate affected the amount of polyphenols and radical scavenging, but did not modify the chain-
breaking activity and the low-density lipoprotein inhibition activity [35]. The effect of convective drying on bioactive
components and rheology of nopal was assessed. The best conditions for bioactive compound preservation were the
drying temperature of 45C and air flow rate of 3 m/s which resulted in 40.97 g phenols, 23.41 g flavonoids, 0.543g
-carotene and 0.2815 g ascorbic acid/kg. Non-Newtonian shear-thinning behaviour was ascertained for samples
dried at this temperature [36]. The enzymatic hydrolysis of cactus cladode homogenate with a blend of Rapidase and
Viscozyme (1:3, v/v) increased the quercetin and isorhamnetin contents, contributing to increase radical scavenging
activity [37]. The cladode with peels and without were powdered and compared for their dietary fiber content. The
powder with peels contained higher soluble fiber content which was assumed to be due to the mucilage content of
epidermis [38].
The physicochemical and nutrimental contents O. ficus indica (Redonda variety) fresh nopal and its powder
produced at different stages of maturity were compared. The ash content increased from 18.41 to 23.24%, calcium
content increased from 1.52 to 3.72%, while phosphorous dropped off from 0.43 to 0.27%, respectively. Calcium
oxalate decreased from 7.95 to 3.47 mg/g and the Ca/P ratio varied from 3.6–11. The soluble fibre decreased from
25.22 to 14.91%, while the insoluble fibre increased from 29.87 to 41.65% [39]. It was found that the older cladodes
contained more calcium [40]. Nopal powders from three different maturity stages were subjected to various methods
of drying. Among the freeze-dried, forced-air oven and tunnel method, freeze-dried proved to be the most efficient
in retention of higher contents of protein, soluble fibre, fat and colour. The soluble fibres decreased with the age of
nopal, while insoluble fibers and ash content increased [41]. The nutritive value of 16 cultivars and clones of spineless
cladodes were evaluated and wide variation in dry matter, Ca, K and oxalates were reported [42].
11. Anticipated risks
It was reviewed that the copious mucilage, spines and pathogen sensitivity are the hurdles in the path of popularity
of nopal as a vegetable. Eliminating these undesirable characteristics might boost its approval [43]. Nopal is prone
to contamination with salmonella from water and soil, causing risks to the consumer health. So, proper disinfection
should be taken care of. Many phytochemicals have pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interactions with drugs.
The undesirable herbal interactions between opuntia and anti-diabetic agents (glipizide and metformin), resulting in
abnormal hypoglycaemia were reviewed. The underlying mechanism might be the resultant of the additive glucose
lowering effect of the cactus and the drugs. It mandates that the patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus should be
routinely counselled about the use of herbal products to minimize the risk of adverse drug reactions [44].
12. Current standing and future trends
The formulation of cladode-based balanced diet for ruminants is on the verge of commercialization [45]. This
might be possible for human consumption as well, given due interest. Improvement of visual appeal, handling ease
and nutritional characteristics of nopal is sure to gain more consumers. Vast swathes of arid, barren lands can be
reclaimed by planting these xerophytic vegetables. The cactus industry in Mexico alone is worth $150 million and
employs 10,000 workers. Also, it is being grown as cash crop in Central America and Israel. Nopal horticulture ought
to be promoted with proper incentives to farmers. Annual Nopal fair (Feria de Nopales) is organized in Mexico and
several places in US southwest to motivate people to consume nopal. Microbial fermentation is being regarded as a
S. Patel / Opuntia cladodes as nutritious food 17
strategy for valorisation of nopal. It is touted to be a plant-origin substitute of chitosan. In recent times, chitosan has
gained credence as low calorie, food additive with ability to bring satiety [46]. Nopal possessing similar properties
might also be useful in tackling weight issues and obesity.
13. Conclusion
To wrap up the topic, nopal has a pool of dietary fibers, phenolic compounds, minerals and vitamins. Further, the
physical properties as water retention, oil holding and swelling capacities, non-Newtonian flow behaviour make it
desirable for food processing. It is emerging not only as a gourmet, but also a wholesome diet. Additionally, it has
incredible potential to be developed as effective dietary supplements and alternative medicines at affordable cost. Its
antioxidant abundance could be tapped to detoxify body and minimize the risk of chronic ailments. More clinical
trials should be undertaken to dig out its hitherto unknown health benefits. Wider cultivation and consumption must
be given a thrust. This review is believed to stimulate research in nopal and contribute to bioprospecting.
Conflict of interest
There is no conflict of interest in submission of this manuscript.
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... Rich in dietary fiber, carbohydrates, antioxidants, flavonoids, minerals and vitamins [4], the cladodes are a popular Mexican food consumed fresh (as young cladodes called nopalitos), cooked, dried or as juice [5]. Furthermore, cladode extracts have been used in the traditional medicine of many countries, from Mexico through Morocco, for treatment of diabetes mellitus, digestive system diseases, kidney and urinary infections [6]. ...
... In the subsequent decade, plentiful research activities followed across the world and today the slightly brown powder (often called Nopal) obtained by grinding dehydrated Opuntia's cladodes is a functional ingredient widely employed to functionalize foodstuff and to formulate nutraceutical, personal care and cosmetic products [6]. ...
... Besides the harvesting month, numerous other agronomic and environmental factors directly affect the cladode composition [6]. For example, whereas in Sicily's OFI cladodes a total of 36% of the dry weight of whole cladodes was found to be carbohydrate [15], the level of carbohydrates in dry cladodes of OFI grown in Spain was reported between 64% and 71% [16]. ...
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Providing a case study of general applicability in all world's semi-arid regions where the plant is increasingly harvested, we describe the use and outcomes of solar air heating and ventilation coupled to a conventional kiln to dehydrate Opuntia ficus-indica cladodes. For the first time, the dried cladodes and the ground dehydrated ‘Nopal’ cladodes retain their natural green-yellow color. New applications to functionalize foodstuff and to formulate nutraceutical, personal care and cosmetic products of even higher efficacy and broader scope are anticipated.
... The annual production of PP exceeds 400,000 metric tons in Mexico alone [34], where it is traditionally consumed as a vegetable [32]. Furthermore, the cladodes are typically consumed, whether broiled, blended, or as a juice after the removal of the spines [35,36]. ...
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The worldwide prevalence of obesity is increasing along with its comorbidities, including type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). From a pathophysiological perspective, T2DM arises as a consequence of insulin resistance and pancreatic β-cell dysfunction, which together induce chronic hyperglycemia. The pharmacological treatment of T2DM specifically focuses on its management, rather than remission, with a lack of pharmacological agents to prevent the onset of the disease. Considering the role of unhealthy dietary patterns on the development of T2DM, identifying novel food ingredients and bioactive substances may provide new avenues by which to address the T2DM epidemic. In this brief review, we have summarized the latest findings on the consumption of the prickly pear (PP; Opuntia spp.) cladode as a potential nutritional tool for the management of hyperglycemia. The consumption of prickly pear cladodes was reported to exert hypoglycemic effects, making it a potential cost-effective nutritional intervention for the management of T2DM. Several studies have demonstrated that the consumption of prickly pear cladodes and the related products reduced post-prandial glucose levels. The cladodes’ high fiber content may be implicated in improving glycemic control, by affecting glucose absorption and effectively slowing its release into the blood circulation. Given these potential hypoglycemic effects, prickly pear cladodes may represent a potential functional food ingredient to improve glycemic control and counter the negative metabolic effects of the modern Western diet. Nonetheless, in consideration of the lack of evidence on the chronic effects of the prickly pear cladode, future research aimed at evaluating its long-term effects on glycemic control is warranted.
... The cladodes and fruit of nopal (Opuntia spp.) have been a food staple for centuries in North and Central America (Piperno, 2011), and have been recently touted as a functional ingredient (Patel, 2014;Stintzing & Carle, 2005); they are often used in weight-loss diets, particularly in Mexico (Onakpoya, O'Sullivan, & Heneghan, 2015). Cladodes for human consumption (nopales) are sourced from Opuntia ficus-indica and its different cultivars (Sáenz et al., 2013). ...
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The mucilage extracted from the convection-dried cladodes of O. ficus-indica and O. joconostle, two species of economic importance, delivered three fractions after methanol precipitation. Two were composed of high molar mass polysaccharides, and one included water-soluble mono-, di-, and oligosaccharides. The large polysaccharides have a molar mass range of 4.0×10³ to 8.0×10⁵ g∙mol⁻¹ and are consistently composed of galactose, arabinose, xylose, and rhamnose; however, the content of galacturonic acid was different between both fractions and species. Their fermentability by selected probiotics was relatively low, 11 to 27 % compared to glucose, and decreased with increasing levels of galacturonic acid in the molecules. In the third fraction, previously unreported oligosaccharides were found. These include simple- and complex-structured galactooligosaccharides with arabinosyl-, xylosyl- and galacturonosyl acid residues. Their fermentability by prebiotic species can be ascribed more to their structural characteristics and monosaccharide composition than their molecular dimensions.
... Isorhamnetin, a flavonoid from Opuntia humifusa, was reported to be a scavenger of free radicals and modulates the expression of inflammatory cytokines; thus, isorhamnetin possesses potential anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities [20,21]. Moreover, dietary fibers from Opuntia, composed of mucilage and pectin, may be taken up by lactic acid-producing bacteria; the production of short-chain fatty acids by lactic acid-producing bacteria may accordingly increase, leading to the induction of the prebiotic effects of these bacteria [22,23]. In the light of these data, we expected extracts from Opuntia to show a synbiotic effect on the survival and beneficial activity of L. paracasei, leading to symptomatic improvement in IBS. ...
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The administration of a combination of probiotics and prebiotics is expected to be a promising strategy for improving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. This study aimed to investigate the efficacy of a synbiotic containing Lactobacillus paracasei and Opuntia humifusa extract for symptomatic improvement of IBS in a murine model and to evaluate the mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of this synbiotic. A total of 20 male Wistar rats aged 8 weeks with IBS induced by restraint stress were assigned into four groups and administered L. paracasei as a probiotic and O. humifusa extract as a prebiotic for 4 weeks. The primary outcome was stool consistency at week 4. To evaluate the mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of the synbiotic, fecal microbial analysis was conducted, and the serum corticosterone levels, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) levels in the colon tissue, and expression of tight junction proteins were investigated. All three treatment groups showed significantly lower scores for stool consistency than the control group at week 4 (all p < 0.001). When compared with the control group, the synbiotic groups showed a significantly greater abundance of L. paracasei in fecal microbial analysis, lower serum corticosterone levels, lower TNF-α levels in the colon tissue, and higher expression of tight junction proteins. This novel synbiotic containing L. paracasei and O. humifusa extract can improve the stool consistency in a murine model of IBS. It may be a promising treatment option for IBS, and human studies are warranted.
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The prickly pear is a non-climacteric fruit and highly perishable. Therefore, it is crucial to find methods to extend its shelf life. The objective of this study was to evaluate the storage behavior of prickly pears under modified atmosphere conditions (2 °C, 90% RH) using different packaging materials (a cardboard box commercially used by the company, a rigid PET (polyethylene terephthalate) box, and a biodegradable plastic flexible bag). The fruits were produced in the Alentejo region and belong to a regional variety usually referred to as the “orange” variety. According to this study, the “orange” variety fruits could be stored at the specified temperature for 30 days. Among the storage methods tested, the biodegradable plastic bag was the most effective in maintaining the fruit’s quality throughout the entire period. The biodegradable package exhibited a weight loss lower than 5% for 30 days of storage, while the cardboard box showed great weight loss (>6%) and more fruit contamination by fungi. Fruit firmness also decreased during storage, going from 10.1 N to 4.35 N, with bigger losses happening in the PET box. Throughout the study, the fruit acidity remained stable with values of 0.03% and 0.02%.
Opuntia , a genus of the Cactaceae family, has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant, with different parts of the plant, including whole fruit, pulp, flowers, seeds, peels, and cladodes. Opuntia spp., cultivated or wild, can be found in various agro‐climatic conditions, although often associated with warm climate. A dozen species are cultivated for fruit production ( O. ficus‐indica, O. amyclae, O. xoconostle, O. megacantha , and O. streptacantha ), although O. ficus‐indica is the most known, as prickly pear fruit, and is available across the five continents from early summer until late autumn. The peculiar general Opuntia anatomy and physiology, and O. ficus‐indica specifically, make it a multipurpose dryland crop destined to become more important in view of an ever increasing world population and water and land scarcity. Opuntia fruits contain polyphenols and betalains, promising protective agents against inflammation, oxidative stress, and metabolic‐related diseases. Cladodes are not only rich in polyphenols but also contain polysaccharides and soluble fibers that are able to counteract hyperglycemia and related physiological disorders. This chapter reports the latest finding on the health properties of fruit, cladode, flower, and seed from Opuntia plants, related to the bioactive compounds, and the mechanisms of action so far identified or hypothesized. Moreover, the potential uses of Opuntia fruit and cladode are reported, not only for health and disease but also for food applications.
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Various dried (by-)products from the Tunisian O. ficus-indica were elucidated for their proximate composition, fatty acid (FA) composition, inorganic elements, sugars, and polyphenols. Nopal and prickly pear peel and seeds were abundant in fiber (respectively, 28.39, 12.54, and 16.28%). Seeds had also high protein (17.34%) and may be source of an edible oil, due to lipids (9.65%) poor in saturated FAs (14.12%) and rich in linoleic acid (61.11%). Nopal and peel showed the highest levels of Mg (493.57 and 345.19 mg/100 g), K (6949.57 and 1820.83 mg/100 g), Mn (59.73 and 46.86 mg/Kg) and Fe (23.15 and 15.23 mg/Kg), while the fruit pulp predominantly constituted of sugars, glucose and arabinose being predominant (42.57 and 13.56 g/100 g). Total polyphenols widely varied among the Opuntia products (108.36–4785.36 mg GAE/100 g), being mainly represented by hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids, and flavonoids as well. In particular, peel may be revalorized for these valuable bioactives, including 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (484.95 mg/100 g), cinnamic acid (318.95 mg/100 g), rutin (818.94 mg/100 g), quercetin (605.28 mg/100 g), and several isorhamnetin and kaempferol glycosides. Overall, the Tunisian prickly pear cactus could encourage a sustainable production, an effective waste management, and may provide several benefits for human health, in accordance with the model of the Mediterranean diet.
Opuntia cacti are ideal crops for arid regions since they can generate biomass under water-stress conditions. Opuntia spp. are important as food and feed resources, with the young cladodes being harvested as a vegetable crop (nopalitos). Consumers are nowadays more health conscious and as a result, the food industry produce new food types based on nopalitos. Cladodes have a high nutritional value due to its contents of minerals, proteins, dietary fibre and phytochemicals. The chemical composition depends on the type of specie, environmental conditions, maturity stage, harvest season and post-harvest treatment. The soluble dietary fibre may help reduce body weight and calcium contents improves bone density. The beneficial properties are related to the mineral, phenolics, vitamins, polyunsaturated fatty acids and amino acids. The medicinal properties of cladodes include prevention of chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, obesity and metabolic syndrome as they have anti-atherogenic, anti-hyperglycemic and anti-hyperinsulinemic properties. Wound healing properties of cladode extracts was also reported. This chapter deals with the chemistry, composition and functionality of both mature cladodes and nopalitos from different Opuntia spp.
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El sobrepeso, obesidad, afecciones cardiovasculares, dislipidemias, hipertensión, diabetes y cáncer son un problema mundial de salud. Se sugiere para su prevención una alimentación sana y estilo de vida saludable. En este estudio se elaboró una tortilla de maíz a partir de 90 g de masa con 2.5g de harina de nopal y 2.5g de aguacate liofilizado, y se evaluó su efecto reductor de colesterol, triglicéridos y glucosa en ratas Wistar. Se formularon tres dietas: Referencia (DR), que incluyó todos los ingredientes que los roedores requieren para su mantenimiento, Control (DC), en donde se indujo hipertrigliceridemia e hipercolesterolemia, y una dieta con la tortilla (DT) donde también se les indujo hipertrigliceridemia e hipercolesterolemia. Los animales que fueron alimentados con DT disminuyeron sus valores de colesterol total (25.8%), triglicéridos (30.8%), y el colesterol-LDL (72.9%) con respecto a DC. También hubo disminución de glucosa en los animales alimentados con DT en comparación con los alimentados con DC (31.85%) y DR (32.84%). Los animales que fueron alimentados con DT en comparación con DC presentaron mayor concentración de lípidos en heces y mayor humedad, 56.2% y 311%, respectivamente, y un 10.4% menos concentración de lípidos en hígado. La adición de harinas de aguacate y nopal fueron efectivas en reducir las concentraciones de colesterol, triglicéridos y glucosa en ratas.
A diverse range of agents, from biological and chemical to mechanical, can be perceived as stressors by the immune system. Even the diet, depending on its components and dosage, can provoke the immune system. Processed foods are acidogenic which lower the pH of the extracellular matrix (ECM), causing an aberrant enzyme activity. The consequent agitated immune system is linked to all pathologies including infections, metabolic disorders, and autoimmune diseases. Disturbed immunity has also been implicated in neuropathologies. Inflammation, which perturbs the neuro-endocrine-immune axis, is the central mechanism related to neural issues. During inflammation, the weapons of the innate immune system, cytokines, produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS), which cause damage to the organs. Mapping of disease-specific biomarkers has showed the correlation between the aberrant expression of neural, immune, and metabolic mediators (insulin, leptin, cytokine, angiotensin II, serine protease, aromatase, estrogen, and neurotransmitters) and neural ailments such as multiple sclerosis, depression, autism, and dementia, among others. In this manner, the immunometabolic mechanisms control the neural health through interacting signaling pathways such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS). For a clearer picture of these connections, this chapter discusses the nexus between diet, immune system, and neural system.
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This study aimed to evaluate morphological characteristics and to determine the nutritive value of 16 cultivars and clones of spineless cactus growing in central Tunisia (13) and in Tunis (3) since 1998. Three plants of each cultivar were used and three cladodes from each plant were harvested in September 2005. The length (L), width (Wd), thickness (T) and weight (Wt) of each cladode were measured. Each cladode was cut into small pieces and 100 g of the chopped material were dried at 100C for 72 h for dry matter (DM) determination. Another sample was dried at 50C for a week, then ground (1 mm-screen) and stored until analyzed. Morphological parameters varied greatly among cultivars. They could be allocated into two groups. The first group includes cultivars with heavy cladodes (>0.8 kg/cladode). The weight of the cladodes of the cultivars in the second group ranged between 0.45 and 0.75 kg/cladode. Cladode length varied from 33 to 39 cm and the width from 16 to 23 cm. The cultivar Opuntia undulata had big cladodes (41.427.1 cm, LWd). However, Opuntia cochinilifera had the smallest cladodes (20.68.3 cm, LWd). The average number of cladodes in each cactus plant ranged from 14 (Opuntia ficus-indica f. inermis (OFI), Algeria) to 55 (OFI, Sbeitla). The DM content ranged from 6 to 12% (P<0.001). Cladodes of all cultivars were high in ash (20-29% of DM). The crude protein content (CP) was low in the cladodes of 13 cultivars (4-6% of DM) and relatively high in the three others (9-11% of DM). Overall, fiber content was relatively low in all cultivars. The NDF content ranged from 29 to 41% of DM, the ADF from 11 to 15% of DM and the ADL from 1.5 to 4.6% of DM. Cladodes of all cultivars were high in Ca (4-8% of DM) and K (3-8% of DM) but the Ca/P ratio was too high (>50). High levels of oxalates were detected in the cladodes of the 16 cultivars (7 to 17% of DM). The two cultivars OFI-Tunis and OFI clone 1270 were highest in oxalates (14 and 17% of DM, respectively). Gas production (GP) measured in calibrated glass syringes containing rumen fluid and artificial saliva and the substrate (0.2 g) incubated at 39C for 24 h ranged from 35 and 50 ml/0.2 g of organic matter (P<0.001). Cladodes of OFI Oueslatia exhibited the highest GP (50 ml/0.2 g OM). The GP was intense during the first 24 h of incubation then slightly increased during the following 24 h and stabilized between 48 and 72 h of incubation. The GP rate from the insoluble fraction of the substrate is high for most cultivars (ca. 10% per h). There were negative correlations between ADF and GP (r=-0.48, P<0.001) and oxalate content and GP (r=-0.56, P<0.001). The results indicate a great variation of the morphological parameters and nutritive value between the 16 cultivars and clones of spineless cactus. The high level of CP in OFI clone 1270, Opuntia sp. 1233 and Opuntia cochinilifera did not improve their in vitro digestion.
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Methotrexate is widely used in the therapy of various types of malignancy as well as in the treatment of various inflammatory diseases. Its efficacy is limited by severe side effects, it may affect liver, kidney and blood. The ability of the extract of cactus to restore MTX-liver and hematological damage was tested. Cactus cladode extract (Opuntia ficus-indica) was injected intraperitoneally alone or simultaneously with an intraperitoneal Methotrexate (MTX) administration to Wistar male rats for 10 days. The rats were randomly divided into four groups as follows; I-Control group; II-cactus group (0.4 g/kg); III-MTX group (20 mg/kg); IV-MTX+cactus (0.4 g/kg of cactus+20 mg/kg MTX). On the tenth day rats were scarified by decapitation, blood samples were collected for hematological and serum biochemical parameters measurements. Our results clearly showed that MTX treatment significantly decreased hematocrit, hemoglobin, white blood cells, and increased the most of biochemical serum parameters, while the mixture of the extract of cactus cladodes with the MTX induced a reestablishment of hematological parameters, and levels of serum biochemical enzyme activities. In conclusion, it appears that cactus cladodes extract protects against methotrexate-induced oxidant organ injury and it may become a promising treatment in the prevention of undesired side effect of MTX.
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The ability of chitosan to entrap large amounts of water when dispersed in an oily phase was utilized to formulate a novel meal replacement functional food. Furthermore, the proposed preparation can be fortified with nutrients. The purpose of this formulation was to produce an edible low calorie pseudo-fatty rich meal that can enhance the feeling of satiety when ingested. Different concentrations of chitosan and pectin were tested to find out a stable preparation with acceptable physical characteristics. It was found that a preparation containing 1% chitosan and 6% pectin is suitable to be consumed as a meal replacement diet. The safety of such preparation was assessed by repeated dose administration to rats. A set of other in vivo experiments was performed to assess the ability of this preparation to enhance satiety. The ingestion of chitosan preparation resulted in reduced body weight, food and water intake, and reduced faecal excretion in the emulsion administered rats (p < 0.05). Furthermore, serum lipids of tested rats were not essentially changed. Accordingly, the investigated chitosan emulsion could be introduced as a low calorie, relatively stable and a safe functional food preparation for enhancing satiety when ingested as a meal replacement diet.
Growth and carcass characteristics of lambs fed diets containing sun-dried and coarsely ground cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica 'Algerian') cladodes, supplemented with different nitrogen sources, were evaluated. Forty-five young Dorper wether lambs (weighing ± 22 kg) were randomly allocated to three diets; the 15 lambs per diet were subdivided in three subgroups of five lambs each. The diets were a conventional feedlot diet (T0) and two cactus pear-based diets (T1 and T2) with additional nitrogen in the form of non-protein nitrogen (NPN; feed grade urea) or natural protein (sunflower oilcake meal). Lambs were weighed at the start of the trial and thereafter every week to determine average daily gains. Lambs were slaughtered when they reached an average target weight of 35 kg live body weight. Lambs fed diets T0 and T2 gained faster (ADG) (P<0.05) and achieved better (P<0.05) efficiency of gain (FCR) than lambs fed diet T1. Carcass weights did not differ significantly (P>0.05) among diets. Dressing percentage was significantly (P>0.06) higher for lambs fed the Opuntia-based diets (T1 and T2) than those fed the conventional diet (T0). The lack of significant differences in carcass characteristics considered in this study suggest that carcass quality is not affected by inclusion of sun-dried and coarsely ground cactus pear (O. ficus-indica) cladodes in diets or by the type of nitrogen source. The difference in ADG and FCR between cactus pearbased diets showed the importance of high quality nitrogen sources for lambs. This research programme has started evaluating Opuntia-based diets for beef cattle. These trials are opening prospects to commercialise the use of sun-dried Opuntia cladodes in balanced diets for ruminants.
The objective of this research is to study the functional, technological and chemical characteristics of 2 types of cactus cladodes powder (with and without epidermis). Cladodes from 2-3 years from a Garden variety of the University of Chile were used. The cladodes previously washed and sliced (0.5 cm), were dried in an air forced tunnel (80C by 6 hours). Two grindings were realized until a particle size was reached close to 200 ?m using blades mills. Apparent density (g ml-1), moisture (g 100 g-1), water retention capacity (WRC), swelling capacity (SWC) (g ml-1), fat absorption capacity (FAC), and dietary fiber (SDF and IDF) were determined in the powders. The antioxidant capacity was measured using the DPPH method (TEAC and EC50). The polyphenols content was determined using the Folin-Ciocalteu reagent (mg GAE 100 g-1). The data were analyzed by ANOVA using Stat Graphics plus 5.1 program. The results showed that there was no differences (p<0.05) in the technological characteristics of the powders for moisture, WRC, SWC, FAC and for insoluble fiber (IDF) content. Nevertheless, there were significant differences for the soluble dietary fiber (SDF) and for the bioactive composition; where the powder from cladodes with epidermis have a greater SDF content (14.33±0.27 g 100 g-1) and phenolic concentration (4.32±0.06 mg EAG g-1) and antioxidant capacity (1.86±0.02 TEAC), compared to powders obtained from cladodes without epidermis (9.15±0.19 g 100 g-1, 2.96±0.07 mg EAG g-1; 1.03± 0.05 TEAC, respectively). The unexpected difference in the soluble fiber content can be attributed to the peeling that it could eliminate part of the epidermis layers containing mucilage, which are part of the soluble fiber. In conclusion the use of whole cladodes, besides avoiding the peeling, provides powders with greater dietary fiber and bioactive compounds content.
The cactus Opuntia ficus-indica is a xerophyte plant. It has multiple functional properties in traditional medicine of several countries and it has an increasing interest of nutritional and pharmacological power. In the present study we chose cactus cladode extract (CCE) to investigate its efficacy against benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) a widespread environmental genotoxin witch induces liver injury and related mechanisms in Balb/C mice. The induction of genotoxicity was monitored by chromosome aberrations in bone marrow cells and DNA fragmentation and determinate cell death pathway using also the expressions of p53, bax and bcl2 proteins level in liver. Our results clearly showed that BAP has a genotoxic effect; it induces DNA damage by chromosomal aberrations observed in bone marrow cells. Moreover, it increases the expression of bcl2 and decreases the expression of bax. The treatment of CCE after or before treatment with BAP showed an anti-genotoxic effect resulted in an efficient prevention of chromosomal aberrations production in bone marrow cells compared to the group treated with BAP alone, CCE was found able to restrict the effect of BAP by differential modulation of the expression of p53 which is increased and its associated genes such as bax and bcl2. It could be concluded that cactus cladodes extract was effective in the protection against BAP hazards. This could be relevant, particularly with the emergent demand for natural products which may counteract the detrimental effects of genotoxicity and therefore prevent multiple human diseases.
In this study, we assessed the probiotic effect of mucilage (MO) and pecticderived (PO) oligosaccharides from prickly pear cactus stems on both cultures and metabolic activity of microbial communities in the human colon. The MO treatment enhanced lactobacilli growth up to 23.8%, while PO increased the bifidobacteria population by 25%. Furthermore, the addition of MO produced a slight decrease in enterococci, fecal coliform, staphylococci, and clostridia by about 4%. Increased levels of the short-chain fatty acids were attained in the cultures at rates of 35 and 16% in response to MO and PO treatments, respectively. Propionate and butyrate production increased at least 50% throughout MO and PO treatments. A decrease in the azanium level of 11.5 and 21.8% were produced by MO and PO treatments, respectively. This research indicates that a mixture of MO and PO oligosaccharides from nopal can act as prebiotics.
Cactus pear (Opuntia boldinghii Britton et Rose) stems (cladodes) are used because of their high fiber content and beneficial health contribution. In this research, the partial substitution of wheat flour (WF) by cactus pear stem flour (SF) in the development of bakery products was evaluated. Stems were dried, ground and sifted. Breads were made using pure wheat flour (control) and four formulations of flour composed of WF and SF: I (WF 100%; control), II (SF 5%), III (SF 10%), IV (SF 15%) and V (SF 20%). In the farinaceous test, flours composed of formulations II and III showed the best baking behavior. The proximate composition of breads presented significant differences (p<0.05) and all formulations were microbiologically stable. Sensory evaluation showed that formulation III (SF 10%) was the most acceptable for its color, odor and flavor, while the texture of formulation II (SF 5%) was the most acceptable. In conclusion, prickly pear stem flour is a viable alternative for making bakery products.
Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which a person has a high blood sugar/glucose level. This is because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because the body cells do not properly respond to the insulin that is produced. Herbal treatment for diabetes has been a part of traditional medicine for thousands of years. The natural herbs for diabetes treatment focus on lowering blood sugar, reducing the damaging effects of the disease and maintaining of a safe, healthy level of blood glucose. Many diabetic patients seeking an alternative treatment to traditional drugs turn to natural herbs for help. This review article provides very useful information of officially-approved antidiabetic natural ingredients [Table 1] by KFDA, thereby providing consumers with a wise decision when they purchase the effective nutraceuticals for diabetes. Therefore, medicinal herbs may be used to prevent and treat diabetes reliably and safely when the government approves the ingredients or products officially.