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Ask Tufts Experts April 2013 Issue

Q: Is there any value to drinking cactus juice?

Answer: There may be benefits to consuming cactus— which is, after all, a plant—and people have been eating prickly pear cactus pads and syrup for centuries. But the evidence for the specific health claims typically made for products containing cactus juice (and other ingredients) is scant. Naturally occurring compounds in cactus called betalains are said to reduce inflammation. The literature on the health benefits of cactus betalains is very limited, cautions Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidant Nutrition Laboratory. Most studies cited supporting the benefits of products containing cactus juice were conducted in vitro (“test tube” laboratory experiments) or on rats and mice. The primary human study actually focused on curing hangovers; possible anti-inflammatory benefits were inferred as an explanation for the “moderate effect on reducing hangover symptoms.”

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