The cactus pear fruit is a member of the Cactaceae family and is a common vegetation in Mexico, the Mediterranean, and much of Southern America. They come in a variety of colors ranging from red to yellow to white, which is due to varying combinations of the red-purple pigment betalain and the yellow-orange pigment indicaxanthin.
Cactus Pear Fruit contains:
Yellow cactus pear is much higher in betanin pigments, whereas red fruits are higher in indicaxanthin. The former can reach ratios of 1:8 Betanin:Indicaxanthin whereas the latter can reach 2:1 ratios. White fruits tend to have the greatest anti-oxidant fighting capabilities.
Cactus pear fruit (specifically, the species Opuntia Ficus Indica), in the dose of 500g of the fruit, appears to be able to reduce post-prandial (after meal) blood sugar levels. The compound(s) causative of the benefit appear to not be affected by varying preparation methods and seem to be heat stable up to 60°C and is the Cactus Fruit more commonly used in meal preparation.
The less palatable species Opuntia streptacantha has a well established role as being protective against diet-induced diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels.|published=1989 Apr-Jun|authors=Frati-Munari AC, Del Valle-Martínez LM, Ariza-Andraca CR, Islas-Andrade S, Chávez-Negrete A|journal=Arch Invest Med (Mex)] However, these beneficial effects may not occur in healthy persons and supplemental forms typically underdose.|published=1992 Jul-Aug|authors=Frati Munari AC, Vera Lastra O, Ariza Andraca CR|journal=Gac Med Mex]
Cactus pear appears to be able to reverse suppression of the LDL receptors in the liver that are commonly expressed in cases of high cholesterol. It does not affect cholesterol absorption from the diet like many soluble fibers but seems to be able to reduce serum cholesterol vicariously through the formerly described mechanism.
In a comparitive study against vitamin C (a standard of which anti-oxidants are tested against), Cactus pear fruit (250g pulp) was able to beneficially affect various markers of oxidation whereas vitamin C was not.
Cactus pear fruit appears to possess anti-viral properties.