Improved Joint Mobility Associated with Reduced Inflammation Related to Consumption of Nopal Cactus Fruit Juice: Results from a Placebo-Controlled Trial Using Digital Inclinometry to Objectively Document Mobility of All Major Joints

Objective

To evaluate the effects of daily consumption of Nopal cactus fruit juice (NFJ) on joint mobility in a population experiencing chronic pain but otherwise in good health.

Study design

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study design was used to enroll 40 people after written informed consent, randomized to consume 3 oz/day of NFJ versus placebo. At baseline and 8 weeks, joint range of motion (ROM) was examined by digital inclinometry along the vertical weight-bearing axis of the body from neck to knees and the shoulders. Blood samples were tested for cytokines and C-reactive protein (CRP). Questionnaires addressed wellness, pain, and reliance on pain medications.

Results

After 8 weeks of consuming NFJ, participants showed improved ROM beyond that of participants consuming placebo. Cervical and thoracic/lumbar ROM for the NFJ group was significantly improved when compared to placebo (cervical: P<0.03, thoracic/lumbar: P<0.04). People consuming NFJ relied less on pain medication to complete daily activities (P<0.1) and experienced reduced interference from pain and breathing issues (not significant). Serum levels of Eotaxin, involved in airway inflammation, showed significant differences between placebo and NFJ groups after 8 weeks (P<0.048). Changes in CRP levels showed a larger reduction in the NFJ group (-13%) than in the placebo group (-4%) (not significant). In the subgroup with CRP levels between 1 and 9.9 mg/L at baseline, CRP levels decreased in the NFJ group (-30%) but increased in the placebo group (31%) (P<0.015).

Conclusion

Consumption of NFJ for 8 weeks was associated with statistically significant improvements in joint mobility and physical functioning compared to the placebo group, allowing participants in the NFJ group to be more physically active; daily activities were easier, including walking, sitting, and lying. This was associated with reduced use of pain medication, possibly associated with anti-inflammatory properties of NFJ, as suggested by reduced Eotaxin and CRP levels.

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