The effect of a prickly pear peel extract on cholesterol excretion and plasma and hepatic
cholesterol levels in hamsters with induced hypercholesterolemia was investigated. Female and male
hamsters were fed for 5 weeks with experimental diets: NC, normal cholesterol diet; HC,
hypocholesterolemic diet; HCOp, HC with prickly pear peel extract and HCPh, HC with phytosterols.
Male and females hamsters fed HCOp diet increased their neutral fecal sterols (cholesterol +
coprastanol) excretion by 77% (p<0.042) and 120% (p<0.003), respectively, compared to counterparts fed HC diet.
Plasma total cholesterol was significantly reduced only in male hamsters fed HCPh. The phytosterols content in HCOp
diet was almost 5 fold less compared to HCPh, and both treatments have reduced 35% (p<0.0001) hepatic cholesterol
compared to hamsters fed the HC diet. Thus, the prickly pear peel extract rich in phytosterols showed a
hypocholesterolemic effect. This evidence suggests that the prickly pear byproduct tested herein has potential to be
employed as ingredient or supplement to lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular diseases.