Short-term cactus pear [Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill] fruit supplementation ameliorates the inflammatory profile and is associated with improved antioxidant status among healthy humans

  • Alessandro Attanzio
  • Luisa Tesoriere
  • Sonya Vasto
  • Anna Maria Pintaudi
  • Maria A. Livrea
  • Mario Allegra University of Palermo
Keywords: cactus pear fruit; healthy subjects; inflammatory biomarkers; antioxidant network; skin carotenoids.


Background: Dietary ingredients and food components are major modifiable factors protecting immune system and preventing the progression of a low-grade chronic inflammation responsible for age-related diseases.

Objective: Our study explored whether cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica, Surfarina cultivar) fruit supplementation modulates plasma inflammatory biomarkers in healthy adults. Correlations between inflammatory parameters and antioxidant status were also assessed in parallel.

Design: In a randomised, 2-period (2 weeks/period), crossover, controlled-feeding study, conducted in 28 healthy volunteers [mean age 39.96 (±9.15) years, BMI 23.1 (±1.5) kg/m2], the effects of a diet supplemented with cactus pear fruit pulp (200 g, twice a day) were compared with those of an equivalent diet with isocaloric fresh fruit substitution.

Results: With respect to control, cactus pear diet decreased ( p < 0.05) the pro-inflammatory markers such as tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin (IL)-1β, interferon-γ (INF)-γ, IL-8, C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), whereas it increased ( p < 0.05) the anti-inflammatory marker IL-10. Moreover, the diet decreased ratios between pro-inflammatory biomarkers (CRP, IL-6, IL-8, TNF-α) and anti- inflammatory biomarker (IL-10) ( p < 0.05). Cactus pear supplementation caused an increase ( p < 0.05) in dermal carotenoids (skin carotenoid score, SCS), a biomarker of the body antioxidant status, with correlations between SCS and CRP (r = −0.905, p < 0.0001), IL-8 (r = −0.835, p < 0.0001) and IL-10 (r = 0.889, p < 0.0001).

Conclusions: The presently observed modulation of both inflammatory markers and antioxidant balance suggests cactus pear fruit as a novel and beneficial component to be incorporated into current healthy dietary habits.


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How to Cite
Attanzio A, Tesoriere L, Vasto S, Pintaudi AM, Livrea M, Allegra M. Short-term cactus pear [<em>Opuntia ficus-indica </em&gt; (L.) Mill] fruit supplementation ameliorates the inflammatory profile and is associated with improved antioxidant status among healthy humans. Food & Nutrition Research [Internet]. 20Aug.2018 [cited 20Sep.2018];62. Available from:
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