Health benefits of eating ‘nopales’

A study conducted by Patrick Mailloux at Cinvestav proved that the cactus can help lower cholesterol

Health benefits of eating ‘nopales’
"Nopales" are an essential part of Mexicans' diet and are a rich source of fiber - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 23/01/2019 13:45 Newsroom Mexico City Botiquí Actualizada 13:45
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The prickly pear cactus, most often referred to as “nopal,” has been found to have many nutritional properties. Mexicans are lucky, since said cactus is an essential part of their diet. It is known, for example, that “nopales” are a rich source of fiber and low in calories, which can help people lose weight.

A study conducted by Patrick Mailloux, a researcher from the Pharmacobiology Department at Cinvestav has proven that this cactus has another very important health benefit: It helps to lower cholesterol, according to a press release issued by the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (Cinvestav).

In order to verify some of the properties that have been attributed to the “nopal,” the researcher conducted several tests on mice, which he divided into two groups: One was fed a Mexican cactus extract and the other was put on a normal diet.

During the process, several trials were conducted to assess the effects of “nopales” in the rodents’ organism. One of said trials was a blood test, which showed a reduction in cholesterol levels among the specimens that had been fed with cactus extract.

“Our data showed a significant reduction of cholesterol levels in rats fed with ‘nopales’ compared with the control group,” claimed Mailloux in the press release.

Besides the reduction in cholesterol levels, the experiment also showed that the consumption of “nopal” had other health benefits such as a reduction in glucose levels and oxidative stress in the body cells.

Said property turned out to be even more effective when combined with regular exercise.

Given this health property, the study added that the consumption of “nopal” could help to treat diabetes.

Several body organs were monitored in the experiment, including the pancreas.

The findings proved to be very promising since it was found that pancreatic islets, which is where insulin-producing cells are found, decreased in size among mice that were fed with “nopal” extract.

This process optimizes the sensitization of insulin receptors, which in turn facilitates the introduction of glucose particles into the cells, causing a decline in the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream.


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