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Health claims of nopal cactus

For more than 7,000 years the nopal cactus "vegetable variety" plant called Opuntia Ficus Indica, has been known to be one of the diet staples in the high altitude volcanic regions of Central Mexico, according to the Nopal Canada site. Can it provide health benefits? Indigenous peoples have used nopales as a staple food for thousands of years. Nopales cactus or its juice and/or extract are being touted as a way to help reduce the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Several books have been written about nopales or the extract of the nopal cactus in helping to regulate blood sugar levels. For example,Nopal Cactus The 5 Plus Reasons: Astounding Health-Changing Benefits Revealed by Dr. Ted Schock. Or a book written in Spanish, Usos médicos del nopal: Tratamientos para la diabetes, el colesterol y el sistema inmunológico (Spanish Edition) by Ran Knishinsky (May 14, 2010).

Health claims of nopal cactus.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Edible nopales, or prickly pear cactus grow in the Central Valley of California near the town of Arvin, southeast of Bakersfield, California. California's Central Valley is one of the nation's most important agricultural and oil producing areas, and the cactus also grows in various parts of the world such as Central America, India, and Australia. You can find in in Mexican/Hispanic food markets or grow it yourself.

Mass food production has brought heavy use of chemicals, including pesticides that have sickened hundreds of area workers and residents. Recent studies of the Nopal "vegetable variety" type showed how Nopal could be recommended as a nutritional supplement for a variety of health benefits. The 'trick' is to eat foods without a lot of processing in order to get the most dense form of nutrients.

In 2002, 172 million pounds of pesticides were used on California fields sickening 478 people as airborne chemicals drifted 39 times, according to the state Department of Pesticide Regulation. On May 2, a crew of 100 workers was caught in a drift of pesticide near Arvin that made 19 of them sick, including a woman who was five months pregnant. Numerous people eat the wild nopales edible cactus growing in that area. Usually, it's chopped up, the thorns removed, and cooked as a side dish with carmelized onions.

In the spring of 2004, state Sen. Dean Florez introduced a bill, the Pesticide Drift Exposure Response Act – SB 391 Florez-Escutia, to help pay for field workers' medical care. People eat powdered nopal cactus for its anti-inflammatory and possible blood sugar lowering health benefits. You can buy nopal cactus in various forms in most ethnic Mexican food markets and in some supermarkets. Or you can order nopal powder or nopal nectar online. About three decades ago, the international scientific community started to study the medicinal properties of this cacti.

Nopales cactus extract, freshly eaten, cooked, or in powder form has been said at different times to help prevent type 2 diabetes by somewhat lowering blood glucose/sugar levels, aid in weight loss for the obese, help gastro-intestinal disorders such as ulcers, reduce cholesterol levels or fats in the bloodstream, help with certain liver problems, reduce some inflammation, and possibly strengthen the immune system.

You can juice raw nopales cactus so that you're eating it unprocessed. Or you can buy nopal powder, for example that's dehydrated without added toxins contains 18 amino acids. The high fiber provides low calorie bulk, which is helpful for people trying to lose or manage their weight levels. Nopal also is high in calcium. Will juicing the plant raw have denser nutrition that buying it in a powder form?

You won't know what the cactus has been processed with to turn it into a powder or whether you are sensitive to whatever was used to turn the raw cactus into a powder. In Central America, India, Australia, or other places where indigenous people have been eating nopales cactus for centuries, they prepare it historically without having the machines to turn it into a powder.

If you buy cactus powder online or in any stores, make sure the nopal is organic and the manufacturer is approved by the FDA. It's also called prickly pear cactus. You want to buy this cactus juice or powder that is 100% nopal, high mountain grown, organic, and has no other additives or preservatives.

Research on nopal as a treatment for diabetes is somewhat contradictory, there is some evidence to suggest that the plant has a mild blood-sugar lowering effect. The raw plant contains complex carbohydrate and fiber. The fiber may help to slow glucose digestion and absorption.

Dried prickly pear capsules are popular both in Mexico and the United States. One study has shown that this supplement may help to lower cholesterol levels. But there is not good evidence to support the use of nopal capsules for the treatment of diabetes.

Prickly pear cactus has been found to have fat binding properties as a weapon in the war on weight gain

In October 2009, scientists announced then that they developed a new product that's derived from the prickly pear which they claim can significantly aid weight loss. The 100 per cent organic product – named Proactol . It has been clinically tested in trials to bind with fat. As new as it is in the last few years, the prickly pear has been used for centuries by the Aztecs and other ancient peoples in folkloric medicine.

When taken after a meal it allows the body to expel around 30 per cent more fat – meaning the body absorbs almost a third less fat from food than it would otherwise. The prickly pear is a fruit mentioned in a Walt Disney film that now has been found to hold a possible weight loss answer for some. It's an exotic “fruit” made famous by that classic Walt Disney film, The Jungle Book, that has been unveiled as a secret weapon in the fight against obesity.

The prickly pear – beloved by Baloo the bear in Disney’s classic The Jungle Book – has been found to have fat binding properties – making it a powerful weapon in the war on weight gain. The “fruit” – actually a type of cactus – has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries by peoples such as the ancient Aztecs.

It differs from most other weight loss products on the market by being entirely organic and derived from a plant. Many weight loss supplements include synthetic chemical ingredients.

The team behind Proactol developed a way for people to obtain the health benefits of eating the prickly pear in an easy to swallow tablet form – rather than as a hard to handle cactus – which even Baloo in the movie famously had problems picking. The development has been hailed as a breakthrough by weight loss experts and by the hundreds of Proactol customers who have already managed to shed significant amounts of weight. For further information, see the Proactol site.

Dr Ikram Abidi, a family doctor with a special interest in nutrition, said: “We all know that being obese or over weight significantly enhances one’s risks of developing heart disease, diabetes and other ailments," according to a news release.

“Proactol does its role effectively as is shown by the trials, studies and numerous testimonials. For a health care practitioner, two concerns are of utmost importance while choosing any drug or supplement for a person. First, its efficacy - how effectively and quickly it works and is it backed by credible and documented clinical trials and studies? The second concern is of safety, is it free of significant side effects and does it offer better person’s compliance over the long term use, if needed?

“Proactol offers both - it is scientifically proven and tested to bring maximum results and has high safety profile, as has been shown in several clinical studies. Right from its natural, organic composition to its novel mode of action of binding with fat efficiently, Proactol comes with innovative fitness and weight loss benefits”

The product’s site includes dozens of testimonials from happy dieters. But the company behind the product is quick to point out that Proactol is not a miracle cure for obesity and is most effective as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The company's October 15, 2009 press release reports that student Lauren Cobb, from Burlington, North Carolina, has managed to lose 25 pounds in under four months by taking Proactol as part of a healthy diet.

After gaining weight at college, Lauren tried everything to shift those excess pounds. Yet after jumping from one diet to the next, exercising more regularly and eating healthier, she was shocked to discover that she had lost barely any weight.

That was when Lauren decided to give Proactol a try. “I had tried every diet there was, but nothing worked for me. I one day came across a Proactol ad and decided to check into it. I figured I had nothing else to lose, so I ordered some.”

Incorporating Proactol as part of her healthy weight loss management programme, Lauren soon began to notice a difference in her energy levels and fitness. Dropping a couple of pounds every week, Lauren’s stomach, hips and waist began to get firmer, smoother and more toned, and in no time at all she had lost 25 pounds.

“Not only was the weight dropping off, but I felt better about myself and was more energised.” To Lauren’s relief her hunger pains were gone too, helping her to say no to sugary foods and keep losing weight with confidence, according to the news release. No longer did she feel tempted to snack as she worked, but instead was able to stay in complete control and focus on her University work. “I am a much happier and healthier person now thanks to Proactol. I would recommend it to everyone.”

In the 1967 Disney movie Baloo the bear sang about the prickly pear cactus in the classic song, The Bare Necessities. In the song Baloo, the bear loved by generations of children and voiced by actor Phil Harriss, tells “man cub” Mowgli how a life of leisure can be achieved by living off the land – if you know the tricks.

According to the Proactol company's press release, Baloo sings: “Now when you pick a pawpaw, or a prickly pear, and you prick a raw paw, next time beware. Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw. When you pick a pear, try to use the claw. But you don't need to use the claw. When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw, have I given you a clue?
The bare necessities of life will come to you, They'll come to you!”

Proactol product manager Katie Downing-Howitt said: “We aren’t claiming Proactol is a miracle cure for obesity but it is clinically proven to bind with fat and, as part of a balanced healthy lifestyle, does assist weight loss.”

She added: “It’s ironic that Disney’s animators gave prickly pear munching Baloo a rather cuddly figure. Perhaps if they knew what we know now about the prickly pear he would have been much skinnier.” For further information, view the Proactol site.

The FTC comes down hard on a cactus-based drink

The marketers of a cactus-based fruit drink have agreed to provide $3.5 million for consumer refunds in order to settle FTC charges that they deceived consumers with unsupported claims that their drink, Nopalea, would treat a variety of health problems.The settlement with dietary supplement company TriVita, Inc. is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to stop over-hyped health claims, says the July 15, 2014 news release, "FTC: Claims that Drink Relieves Pain, Inflammation, and Respiratory and Skin Problems Are Unfounded."

Cactus juice marketers now are required to Pay $3.5 million in refunds to consumers for deceptive claims that their product treats diseases. But what if the product didn't treat a disease, but actually prevented a disease from happening in the first place based on dense nutrients that the body uses? It looks like now nobody would know, unless scientists show what nutrients were in the juice or what the juice was mixed with to coax people to like the taste, for example sweeteners that get people coming back for more. The question remains in the minds of people looking for dense nutrition.

Perhaps if you want juice from prickly pears, you grow the prickly pears and juice them yourself without any sweeteners added or without any processing at all or you remove the needles from the prickly pear and eat it, if it's safe to eat raw. However you look at the field of metabolic and genetic nutrition, raw foods, or juicing, the result is that TriVita markets 32-ounce bottles of the “prickly pear” fruit drink, derived from the Nopal cactus, for up to $39.99 plus shipping and handling. But, you can grow the cactus yourself. People eating cactus in Central America don't pay nearly $40 dollars to drink or eat Nopal cactus, found raw in many Mexican or Hispanic ethnic food stores.

According to the FTC’s complaint, advertisements on the defendants’ websites tout “Inflammation Relief without a Prescription.” The defendants’ infomercials featuring celebrity endorser and former supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, market Nopalea as an “anti-inflammatory wellness drink” that relieves pain, reduces and relieves joint and muscle swelling, improves breathing and alleviates respiratory problems, and relieves skin conditions.

Trivita’s former Chief Science Officer, Brazos Minshew, also appears in the infomercials and links inflammation to allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes. He notes in one of the infomercials that “over 200 articles published and archived at the National Institutes of Health demonstrate one thing: the Nopal cactus will reduce inflammation.” The infomercials also feature testimonials by satisfied consumers who are actually paid employees of defendants, according to the complaint.

“These kinds of unfounded claims are unacceptable, particularly when they impact consumers’ health,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Advertisers who cannot back up their claims with competent and reliable scientific evidence are violating the law,” says the FTC's news release.

The defendants are charged with violating Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act by:

  • making unsupported claims that Nopalea significantly improves breathing and relieves sinus infections and other respiratory conditions, and provides significant relief from pain, swelling of the joints and muscles, and psoriasis and other skin conditions.
  • making false claims that the health benefits of Nopalea were proven by clinical studies.
  • failing to disclose that supposedly ordinary consumer endorsers were in fact TriVita sales people who received commissions for selling the defendants’ products.

Besides TriVita, Inc., the complaint names as defendants marketing company Ellison Media Company, and Michael R. and Susan R. Ellison, who control both companies.

Under the proposed settlement order, the defendants are barred from making the health claims alleged in the complaint when marketing Nopalea or any food, drug, or dietary supplement without randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical tests conducted by qualified researchers; making any health claims without competent and reliable scientific evidence; misrepresenting that health benefits are clinically proven when they are not; and failing to disclose any material connection between endorsers of their products and themselves.

Consumers should carefully evaluate advertising for products that claim to cure diseases. For more information, see: Miracle Health Claims.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and approving the proposed settlement order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed stipulated final order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on July 10, 2014. The proposed order is subject to court approval.

The Federal Trade Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Settlement orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.

Genetically customized nutritional supplements at the FTC's response to them

Some companies are pitching genetically customized nutritional supplements that will drop misleading disease claims, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). GeneLink, Inc. and a former subsidiary also agreed to improved safeguards of consumers’ sensitive medical information, says FTC's January 7, 2104 news release, "Companies Pitching Genetically Customized Nutritional Supplements Will Drop Misleading Disease Claims."

Two marketers of genetically customized nutritional supplements have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges of deceptive advertising for claims that their personalized nutritional supplements treat diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, insomnia, and other ailments. The proposed settlements also resolve charges that the companies engaged in lax information security practices, accord to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Through a network of individual affiliates, GeneLink, Inc. and its former subsidiary, foruTM International Corp., marketed nutritional supplements and a skincare product that were purportedly customized to each consumer’s unique genetic profile – based on an assessment of the DNA obtained from a cheek swab provided by the consumer. The supplements and skin repair serum each cost more than $100 per month.

The administrative complaint alleges that GeneLink and foru violated the FTC Act by making false or unsupported health claims about their genetically customized products. Company-approved marketing materials included claims that the customized nutritional supplements could compensate for an individual’s genetic disadvantages, and that the customized skin repair serum’s effectiveness was scientifically proven. The companies also claimed through testimonials that the customized nutritional supplements could treat serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and insomnia.

According to the FTC, the companies also deceptively and unfairly claimed that they had taken reasonable and appropriate security measures to safeguard and maintain personal information collected from nearly 30,000 consumers

According to the complaint, the companies failed to protect the security of personal information – including genetic information, Social Security numbers, bank account information, and credit card numbers; did not require service providers to have appropriate safeguards for consumers’ personal information; and failed to use readily available security measures to limit wireless access to their network.

“This case is about the consequences of making false claims,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, according to the FTC's news release. “It doesn’t matter whether the claims deal with the benefits of direct-to-consumer genetic testing or the privacy of personal information. It’s against the law to deceive people about your product and to make promises you don’t keep.”

The proposed settlements prohibit the marketers from claiming that any drug, food, or cosmetic will treat, prevent, mitigate, or reduce the risk of any disease including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or insomnia – by modulating the effect of genes, or based on a consumer’s customized genetic assessment – unless the claim is true and supported by at least two adequate and well-controlled studies. The orders also require that claims that a product effectively treats or prevents a disease in persons with a particular genetic variation must be backed up with randomized clinical trials conducted on subjects who have that genetic variation.

In addition, the companies may not make any other claims about the health benefits, performance, or efficacy of any drug, food, or cosmetic by modulating the effect of genes, or the consumer’s customized genetic assessment – unless the claim is true and based on competent and reliable scientific evidence

The proposed orders also prohibit the marketers from misrepresenting scientific research regarding such drug, food, or cosmetic, or any genetic test or assessment. The orders also provide a safe harbor for advertising claims that have been approved by the FDA.

Under the proposed orders, GeneLink and foru also are prohibited from providing their affiliates, or any person or entity, with the means to make the prohibited health claims. The proposed settlements also require the companies to monitor claims their affiliates make on their behalf.

Finally, the proposed orders require the companies to establish and maintain comprehensive information security programs and submit to security audits by independent auditors every other year for 20 years. The proposed settlements also bar GeneLink and foru from misrepresenting their privacy and security practices.

These actions are part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to stop over hyped health claims and protect the security of consumers’ sensitive health and financial information. Consumers should carefully evaluate health claims made by advertisers. The FTC has information for consumers about direct-to-consumer genetic tests and dietary supplements.

The Commission vote to accept the consent agreement package containing the proposed consent orders for public comment was 3-1, with Commissioner Ohlhausen voting no. Chairwoman Ramirez and Commissioner Brill have issued a joint statement, Commissioner Ohlhausen has issued a statement, and Commissioner Wright has issued a statement. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly.

The agreements were subjected to public comment for 30 days, that began January 7, 2104 and continued through February 6, 2014, after which the Commission decided whether to make the proposed consent orders final. Interested parties were invited to submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section, during those past dates. Comments in electronic form were submitted using the following Web links (Public Comment Works - Genelink) and Public Comment Works (foruTM International Corporation), following the instructions on the web-based form.

Comments in paper form were mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC also requested at that time back in January and February 2014 that any comment filed in paper form near the end of the public comment period could also have been sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest

When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000, says the FTC's news release. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.

To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call the number listed for filing complaints on its website. The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow the FTC on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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