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Weak evidence for aloe vera and health.

Q Does aloe vera juice offer proven health benefits?

A Search "aloe vera juice" on the Internet and nearly 2 million hits reveal purported benefits such as aiding digestion, boosting energy, weight loss and treating depression. But before you run off and enhance the profits of aloe vera manufacturers by buying these supplements, let's look at the science.

There are two primary substances in the cactus-like aloe plant (known by many names, including "lily of the desert"): the clear substance called aloe vera gel (or aloe gel) and aloe vera latex (aloe latex), the green part of the outer leaf that surrounds the gel. The gel has long been used to soothe a bum after too much sun, but the possible benefits of consuming aloe also have been studied. The following areas have received attention by scientists; however, further human research is needed.

* Diabetes. In two studies of women with type 2 diabetes who consumed 15 milliliters (ml; 15 ml is equivalent to one tablespoon) of aloe gel daily, results showed a significant reduction in blood glucose levels. Yet another trial, in which participants consumed 15 ml twice daily, found no significant effect.

* Cholesterol. With 10 or 20 ml daily aloe gel, a study from 1993 showed a decrease of 18 percent and 25 to 30 percent in "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, respectively. However, there is a lack of recent human studies to confirm these results.

* Ulcerative colitis. With an aloe gel dose of 100 ml twice daily, preliminary research shows a reduction in symptoms for those with mild to moderately active ulcerative colitis.

* Vitamin absorption. In one study, two ounces of two different aloe preparations (a whole leaf extract or a gel) increased the bioavailability of vitamins C and E.

* Constipation. The strongest evidence for oral aloe use relates to constipation. Aloe latex (but not the aloe gel) contains anthraquinones, compounds with a powerful laxative effect. One concern, however, is that continued use of aloe latex may lead to a need for higher doses for effectiveness, but long-term use of large amounts may cause diarrhea, kidney problems, blood in the urine, low potassium, and muscle weakness. In addition, aloe latex contains one specific anthraquinone--aloin--which may have carcinogenic effects. More research is needed to confirm this.

Bottom line. At present, there is insufficient evidence to rate the effectiveness of aloe gel for diabetes, high cholesterol, or ulcerative colitis. Aloe latex seems to be effective for constipation, though prolonged use may be unsafe. Unless otherwise noted, many aloe vera juice formulations may contain aloe latex, which may be potentially harmful. As with any supplement--whether in juice or pill form--always know what you're buying, purchase from a reputable manufacturer, and identify that the aloe product clearly does not contain aloin.

Write to us if you have a question. We'll answer those of most interest to our readers. We regret, however, that we cannot personally respond. Send to:

Environmental Nutrition

P.O. Box 5656, Norwalk, Cl 06856-5656

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Title Annotation:Ask EN
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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