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Nopal for Weight Loss

by
author image Allison Adams
Allison Adams has worked as a registered dietitian since 1996. She began writing professionally in 2000, with work featured in a variety of medical publications such as "Women's Health Magazine" and the "New England Journal of Medicine." Adams holds a Master of Science in nutrition and food sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Nopal belongs to the prickly pear cactus family and is native to Mexico and the southwestern regions of the United States, Italy, Spain and South Africa. Various indigenous populations throughout history have used nopal as a medicinal plant, including the native Nahutal population of Mexico. You can purchase this plant as a standalone supplement or as an ingredient in weight-loss supplements. Before consuming nopal for weight loss, however, you should speak with a medical professional.

Nutritional Information

According to the book “Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine,” nopal contains vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-3, and C. Additionally, this plant contains the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium and iron. Additionally, nopal contains 18 amino acids and represents a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. This high fiber content helps to explain many of the purported health benefits of nopal.

Weight Loss

Herbal supplement manufacturers primarily sell nopal as a natural plant that can help you lose weight. The high fiber content of nopal helps to regulate your appetite and reduce the amount of fat in your body by helping your body to break down and excrete the fat. Additionally, several manufacturers claim that the amino acid content of nopal helps your body pull fluids back from your tissues into your bloodstream, therefore decreasing cellulite and fluid retention. Clinical research, however, does not support the purported weight-loss benefits of nopal.

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Metabolic Benefits

The amino acids in nopal may also provide you with energy and help you reduce fatigue. Additionally, nopal can lower your blood-sugar levels by strengthening your liver and pancreas and increasing your body’s sensitivity to insulin. This in turn may stimulate the movement of glucose from your blood into your body’s cells where your cells can use the glucose as energy. Further, nopal may slow your digestion of carbohydrates and as a consequence, your insulin production may decrease. Again, no clinical studies have confirmed the metabolic benefits of nopal.

Nopal and Cholesterol

Manufacturers of nopal supplements also claim that nopal can exert a cholesterol-lowering action. Nopal's amino acids, fiber and vitamin B-3 may help to reduce your total cholesterol, triglyceride levels and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by helping your body metabolize fat and eliminating excess bile acids from your body. Additionally, nopal may help your body prevent excess blood sugar conversion into fat. Clinical studies, however, have not confirmed that nopal helps to lower cholesterol levels in your body.

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References

Demand Media