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Does Aloe Vera Help You Lose Weight?

You’re looking for a weight loss solution. But with so many options available to you it’s difficult to know what is best to go with.

Could aloe vera – a plant native to Africa – be the answer? Will it help you lose weight and achieve the body you want?

In this article we look through the research and find out. Here’s what we cover:

  • What is aloe vera?
  • Nutrient value and health claims
  • Can aloe help you lose weight?
  • Are there any side effects?

What is Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera, or simply aloe, is a species of plant from the Liliaceae family. It is native to North Africa and is characterized by vivid green leaves and flowers that grow orange or yellow.

The leaves of the plant contain aloe latex – a sticky, yellowish fluid found in the inner lining of the leaf. The most nutritious and commonly used part of the leaf though is aloe gel.

The gel has been used as a traditional medicine since ancient Egyptian times, but more recently you’ll find either aloe gel, juice or water on the shelves of health shops.

Nutrient Content

Aloe contains a number of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and saccharides, therefore has good potential as a health product.

It also contains bioactive compounds that come under the broad category of phytochemicals. These include saponins, glycosides, anthrones and mannans. It also contains anthraquinones – glycosides that have known laxative effects.

Aloe gel is a sticky substance that stores water. It has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that help to sooth burns when applied topically.

In fact, the gel has FDA approval as an over-the counter medication for this purpose and studies show that it can effectively treat would healing, sores and sunburn [1].


Key Point: Aloe vera contains a number of antioxidants that can help heal wounds such as burns and sores.


Aloe Vera Health Claims

The aloe industry is said to be worth around $13 billion [2].

Manufacturers of aloe products claim that it ‘detoxify the body’. This should always set the alarm bells off as this term has no scientific meaning whatsoever. The only things that detoxify the body are the liver, kidneys and lungs.

It is also claimed that aloe can boost your metabolism, increase fat burning and optimize digestion. However, most of these claims are based on anecdotes and ‘connect the dots’ science rather than actual studies.

But is there any research to back up any of these claims? Rather than take the manufacturers word for it, let’s have a look at the research…



Can Aloe Boost Weight Loss?

The first thing you’ll notice is that there’s not a lot of actual clinical research to go on when it comes to aloe. Particularly relating to weight loss. There’s a couple of animal studies here and there and only one human trial.

A study using rats found that aloe gel powder ‘modestly’ reduced weight and body fat. However the dose period of 90 days was quite long [3].

Anti-diabetic Properties

The one human study, published in Nutrition [4] looked at whether the anti-diabetic properties of the plant could affect weight loss.

In the study, a group of obese, early-stage diabetic patients were given an aloe gel complex for 8 weeks.

When their body weight and insulin levels were taken afterwards, both were lower – but with only borderline significance.

It is worth noting though that 8 of the volunteers using the gel pulled out of the study. It isn’t clear why, but it was a significantly higher number than pulled out from the control group. There were also a number of flaws to the study set up too, which makes it difficult to take this study seriously.

In another study, the plant was found to contain five separate sterols that were able to decrease fasting blood glucose by up to 68% [5]. Weight loss wasn’t measured though.

Finally, a large meta-analysis of over 450 diabetic patients from 8 separate studies found that aloe might only offer some benefit to blood glucose management [6]. The researchers went on to suggest that the plant is too understudied and that current evidence relating to insulin sensitivity is limited.

At no point in the review was there mention of any weight loss benefits.

Laxative Effect

One of the groups of glyscosides found in aloe vera are anthraquinones. You’ll find these compounds in aloe latex, and they have a laxative effect when taken orally.

Laxatives can help you lose weight but let’s be clear though – we’re talking about water and food weight loss here and not fat loss. These are two different things.

Laxatives might well help you look better on the scales but can cause dehydration and poor absorption of nutrients. They are not a good choice for safe and effective weight loss.



Key Point: There isn’t much evidence to suggest that aloe vera can help you lose weight. The studies that are available are either animal studies or have method weaknesses.


What Are The Side Effects?

Anthraquinones may contribute towards adverse effects. One study found that purified aloe plant caused increased incidence and severity of diarrhea and colon adenomas and carcinomas [7].

The laxative effect of aloe can lead to abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, long-term intestinal damage and rectal bleeding.

Other studies have shown that aloe can increase gastrointestinal irritation and incidence of tumors in animals [8]. The review went on to mention that aloe latex with high anthraquinone levels (above 50 ppm) is an FDA concern.


Summary Aloe Vera as a Weight Loss Supplement

Aloe vera is an effective topical treatment. It speeds up recovery from burns and sores. It’s natural antioxidant content is soothing and provides skin tissue with a number of nutrients.

Although some tentative research has shown that the gel of the plant can improve insulin resistance in diabetics, there is just not enough evidence to show any benefits to weight loss.

We advise that until more trials are made available, you focus your attention on a product that has a more rigorous research history as well as nutrients that have been proven to have positive effects.


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References

  1. Reynolds, T et al. Aloe vera leaf gel: a review update. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1999; 68: 3–37
  2. Grace, OM et al. Evolutionary history and leaf succulence as explanations for medicinal use in aloes and the global popularity of Aloe vera. BMC Evol Biol. 2015; 15: 29
  3. Misawa, E et al. Administration of dried Aloe vera gel powder reduced body fat mass in diet-induced obesity (DIO) rats. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2012; 58(3): 195-201
  4. Choi, HC et al. Metabolic effects of aloe vera gel complex in obese prediabetes and early non-treated diabetic patients: randomized controlled trial. Nutrition. 2013; 29(9): 1110-4
  5. Tanaka, M et al. Identification of Five Phytosterols from Aloe Vera Gel as Anti-diabetic Compounds. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 2009; 29(7): 1418-1422
  6. Suksonboom, N et al. Effect of Aloe vera on glycaemic control in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2016;41(2):180-8
  7. Shao, A et al. Safety of purified decolorized (low anthraquinone) whole leaf Aloe vera (L) Burm. f. juice in a 3-month drinking water toxicity study in F344 rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013; 57: 21-31
  8. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Final report on the safety assessment of AloeAndongensis Extract, Aloe Andongensis Leaf Juice,aloe Arborescens Leaf Extract, Aloe Arborescens Leaf Juice, Aloe Arborescens Leaf Protoplasts, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice,aloe Barbadensis Leaf Polysaccharides, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Aloe Ferox Leaf Extract, Aloe Ferox Leaf Juice, and Aloe Ferox Leaf Juice Extract. Int J Toxicol. 2007; 26 Suppl 2:1-50


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