The efficacy of nopales (Opuntia spp) on lipoprotein profile and oxidative stress among moderately hypercholesterolemic adults
Background: Evidence about the purported hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of nopales (prickly pear cactus pads) is limited. Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of nopales for improving cardiometabolic risk factors and oxidative stress, compared to control, in adults with hypercholesterolemia. Design: In a randomized crossover trial, participants were assigned to a 2-wk intervention with 2 cups/day of nopales or cucumbers (control), with a 2 to 3-wk washout period. The study included 16 adults (5 male; 46±14 y; BMI = 31.4±5.7 kg/m2) with moderate hypercholesterolemia (low density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-c] = 137±21 mg/dL), but otherwise healthy. Main outcomes measured included: dietary intake (energy, macronutrients and micronutrients), cardiometabolic risk markers (total cholesterol, LDL-c, high density lipoprotein cholesterol [HDL-c], triglycerides, cholesterol distribution in LDL and HDL subfractions, glucose, insulin, homeostasis model assessment, and C-reactive protein), and oxidative stress markers (vitamin C, total antioxidant capacity, oxidized LDL, and LDL susceptibility to oxidation). Effects of treatment, time, or interactions were assessed using repeated measures ANOVA. Results: There was no significant treatment-by-time effect for any dietary composition data, lipid profile, cardiometabolic outcomes, or oxidative stress markers. A significant time effect was observed for energy, which was decreased in both treatments (cucumber, -8.3%; nopales, -10.1%; pTime=0.026) mostly due to lower mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids intake (pTime=0.023 and pTime=0.003, respectively). Both treatments significantly increased triglyceride concentrations (cucumber, 14.8%; nopales, 15.2%; pTime=0.020). Despite the lack of significant treatment-by-time effects, great individual response variability was observed for all outcomes. After the cucumber and nopales phases, a decrease in LDL-c was observed in 44% and 63% of the participants respectively. On average LDL-c was decreased by 2.0 mg/dL (-1.4%) after the cucumber phase and 3.9 mg/dL (-2.9%) after the nopales phase (pTime=0.176). Pro-atherogenic changes in HDL subfractions were observed in both interventions over time, by decreasing the proportion of HDL-c in large HDL (cucumber, -5.1%; nopales, -5.9%; pTime=0.021) and increasing the proportion in small HDL (cucumber, 4.1%; nopales, 7.9%; pTime=0.002). Conclusions: These data do not support the purported benefits of nopales at doses of 2 cups/day for 2-wk on markers of lipoprotein profile, cardiometabolic risk, and oxidative stress in hypercholesterolemic adults.