Opuntia ficus indica (nopal) attenuates hepatic steatosis and oxidative stress in obese Zucker (fa/fa) rats

J Nutr. 2012 Nov;142(11):1956-63. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.165563. Epub 2012 Sep 26.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with multiple factors such as obesity, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress. Nopal, a cactus plant widely consumed in the Mexican diet, is considered a functional food because of its antioxidant activity and ability to improve biomarkers of metabolic syndrome. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of nopal consumption on the development of hepatic steatosis and hepatic oxidative stress and on the regulation of genes involved in hepatic lipid metabolism. Obese Zucker (fa/fa) rats were fed a control diet or a diet containing 4% nopal for 7 wk. Rats fed the nopal-containing diet had ∼50% lower hepatic TG than the control group as well as a reduction in hepatomegaly and biomarkers of hepatocyte injury such as alanine and aspartate aminotransferases. Attenuation of hepatic steatosis by nopal consumption was accompanied by a higher serum concentration of adiponectin and a greater abundance of mRNA for genes involved in lipid oxidation and lipid export and production of carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1 and microsomal TG transfer proteins in liver. Hepatic reactive oxygen species and lipid peroxidation biomarkers were significantly lower in rats fed nopal compared with the control rats. Furthermore, rats fed the nopal diet had a lower postprandial serum insulin concentration and a greater liver phosphorylated protein kinase B (pAKT):AKT ratio in the postprandial state. This study suggests that nopal consumption attenuates hepatic steatosis by increasing fatty acid oxidation and VLDL synthesis, decreasing oxidative stress, and improving liver insulin signaling in obese Zucker (fa/fa) rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Adiponectin / metabolism
  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Eating
  • Fatty Liver / diet therapy*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipoid Proteinosis of Urbach and Wiethe / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Opuntia*
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Zucker
  • Signal Transduction
  • Weight Gain


  • Adiponectin
  • Insulin