Prickly pear could help manage hyperglycaemia, review says

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

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© Getty Images

Related tags Diabetes mellitus type 2 prickly pear cladodes

Researchers have identified the prickly pear as a promising nutritional approach for managing sugar levels in the body in a review that assesses the evidence of the food’s metabolic benefits.

The review suggests the high fibre content of the cladodes may contribute to improving glycaemic control by affecting the absorption of glucose, and effectively slowing down its release into the blood circulation.

The review, which includes a detailed look at the results of different randomised and controlled trials, focuses on the stem part of the prickly pear cladodes, that is used as a traditional treatment in Mexico.

The report says: “Given these potential hypoglycaemic effects, prickly pear cladodes may represent a potential functional food ingredient to improve glycaemic control and counter the negative 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 glycaemic control is warranted​.”

Reduction in glucose levels

The researchers, from a number of universities including Canberra in Australia and Birmingham summarised the results on the consumption of the cladodes of the prickly pear which they note indicated a reduction in post-prandial glucose levels.

The prickly pear cladodes are now being explored as a potential, cost-effective nutritional intervention.

Its main components are carbohydrates 38%, protein 11% and a 5:1 biomass to water ratio.

Adverse side-effects are rare and current literature suggests it is a promising ingredient for the management of glycaemia.

Unfortunately, existing evidence is scarce and further research is encouraged particularly around the effects on those with pre-diabetes

With obesity increasing worldwide and continuing to present a major health concern, it is now affecting more than a third of the global population.

One of the effects of this crisis is a surge in the number of people suffering type two diabetes mellitus (T2DM).

The treatment of T2DM currently focuses on management as there is a lack of medication to prevent its onset.


One study​ aimed to evaluate the potential hyperglycaemic effects of different preparation of the cladodes – 500 grams (gms) of broiled, blended and broiled and blended crude, and heated blended – after ingestion by people diagnosed with T2DM.

This form of diabetes arises because of insulin resistance and pancreatic cell dysfunction which together induce chronic hyperglycaemia.

It was observed that all methods of preparation resulted in an acute reduction of blood glucose at two hours and two and a half hours after taking it.

Another study​ reported the longer-term consumption of cladodes where volunteers with metabolic syndrome were provided with cladodes as part of their regular diet for two weeks, In this case, both the control and intervention diets were made up of chia seeds, soy protein and oats along with the cladodes,

The findings of this study showed a reduction of relative blood glucose levels which were consistent throughout the study, However, researchers said these results should be treated with caution because the contribution of the cladode to the overall hypoglycaemic effect could not be inferred because it was used in synergy with other products in the diet.

Existing evidence mostly relies on acute studies and despite a number of separate studies being looked at, the researchers say more are needed.


Source: Nutrients

Published online:

Authors: Raahim Kashif et al

'Prickly Pear Cacti (Opuntia spp.) Cladodes as a Functional Ingredient for Hyperglycaemia Management: A Brief Narrative Review'

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