To assess if the acute hypoglycemic effect of nopal which occurs in diabetic patients also appears in healthy individuals, 500 g of nopal stems (O. streptacantha Lem.) were given orally to 14 healthy volunteers and to 14 patients with NIDDM. Serum glucose and insulin levels were measured at 0, 60, 120 and 180 minutes after nopal ingestion. A control test was performed with the intake of 400 ml of water. The intake of nopal by the NIDDM group was followed by a significant reduction of serum glucose and insulin concentration reaching 40.8 + 4.6 mg/dl (n = 14) (mean+SEM) and 7.8 + 1.5 uU/ml (n = 7) less than basal value, respectively, at 180 minutes. (P less than 0.001 vs control test). No significant changes were noticed in the healthy group as compared with the control test (P greater than 0.05). Acute hypoglycemic effect of nopal was observed in patients with NIDDM but not in healthy subjects, thus the mechanisms of this effect differs from current hypoglycemic agents.