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.
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.
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).
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.