Intake of dehydrated nopal (Opuntia ficus indica) improves bone mineral density and calciuria in adult Mexican women

Food Nutr Res. 2013 May 21:57. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v57i0.19106. Print 2013.


Background: The intake of dehydrated nopal (DN) at a high stage of maturity along with high calcium content could improve bone mineral density (BMD) and calciuria and thus prevent osteoporosis.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of calcium intake from a vegetable source (DN) on BMD and calciuria covering a 2-year period in menopausal and non-menopausal women with low bone mass (LBM).

Methods: The study was quasi-experimental, blinded, and randomized, and included 131 Mexican women aged 35-55. Urinary calcium/creatinine index (CCI) was determined; BMD was analyzed on lumbar spine and total hip regions. Four groups were studied: Control group (CG), women with normocalciuria and a minimum dose of DN; experimental group 1 (EG1), women with hypercalciuria and a minimum dose of DN; experimental group 2 (EG2), women with hypercalciuria, and a maximum dose of DN; and normal group (NG) for reference in BMD.

Results: After the first semester of treatment, calciuria levels in women from both experimental groups returned to normal, remaining constant for the rest of the treatment. The percentage difference in BMD increased in the total hip region in the CG (pre 4.5% and post 2.1%) and EG2 (pre 1.8% and post 2.5%) groups significantly in comparison to NG and EG1, which exhibited a significant decrease in their BMD. BMD increased only for the lumbar region in the EG2 group (premenopausal).

Conclusion: The use of a vegetable calcium source such as nopal improves BMD in women with LBM in the total hip and lumbar spine regions principally in the premenopausal women, maintaining constant and normal calciuria levels.

Keywords: bone mineral density; calcium intake; dehydrated nopal; hypercalciuria; low bone mass; osteoporosis.