In recent months we have noticed an increase in the number of people talking about the health benefits of aloe vera gel. One of the claimed health benefits is weight loss.
However, a quick review of the scientific literature provides no conclusive proof that aloe vera has any fat reducing effects. While it seems to be mostly safe for consumption, it may not be a weight loss aid. The only positive studies were conducted on rats and dosage was far higher (as a percentage of bodyweight) than humans could consume.
These Amazon reviews sum up pretty well what the Aloe Vera weight loss plan is all about:
The second review explains the real deal – it is a typical crash diet. The aloe vera is not the reason why you lose weight – you lose weight because you starve yourself. The aloe vera is a placebo, much like those magic weight loss beads and bracelets.
Health and Safety
According to MedicinePlus’ page on Aloe, Aleo vera is “POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in adults” but “POSSIBLY UNSAFE for children when taken by mouth”. Children experience upset stomach, cramps and diarrhea when taking aloe vera.
It is not clear if it is safe for human consumption. However, many people do take it without any complaint.
It interferes with some medications for diabetes, if taken the dosage of medications for diabetes may need to be adjusted.
With the exception of information on websites which sell aloe products, there is very little information regarding aloe vera as a weight loss supplement.
There have been court orders stopping sellers of aloe products from making false weight loss claims.
According to QuackWatch, in June 2003, in a Nevada Federal District Court, the FTC charged Seasilver USA, Inc., AmericAloe, Bela and Jason Berkes, Dr. Friedman, and Brett Rademacher (a principal distributor and Web site developer) with deceptive marketing.
“The order prohibited the defendants from misrepresenting that any product or ingredient could cure or treat cancer; enable 9 out of 10 diabetics to stop their insulin; cause rapid, substantial and permanent weight loss“
The FDA website keeps records of warning letters sent to aloe sellers. In a letter to Set-N-Me-Free Aloe Vera Co., the FDA raised concerns regarding several products, including one which made weight loss claims;
“Examples of some of the product-specific claims observed on your website www.setnmefree.net include: …
Aloe Body Wash
Set-N-Me-Free has documented that when obese people begin to use Aloe Body Wash daily, their body weight can drop several pounds during the first month.”
A review of the scientific research
Using Google Scholar to search for research papers relating to aloe vera and adipose tissue, the following were found:
“Administration of phytosterols isolated from Aloe vera gel reduce visceral fat mass and improve hyperglycemia in Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats” by Eriko Misawa at al. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, Volume 2, Issue 4, December 2008, Pages 239–245. Summary.
Furthermore, the weights of total abdominal fat tissues were significantly lower than the control in ZDF rats with Lo (27.7%) and Cy (26.3%) treatment. These observations suggest that Aloe vera-derived phytosterols could reduce visceral fat accumulation, and would be useful for the improvement of hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia.
This suggests that there may indeed be some relationship between the consumption of aloe vera and reduction in stomach fat – but, maybe only if you are a rat…..
“Oral Ingestion of Aloe vera Phytosterols Alters Hepatic Gene Expression Profiles and Ameliorates Obesity-Associated Metabolic Disorders in Zucker Diabetic Fatty Rats” by Eriko Misawa et al. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2012, 60 (11), pp 2799–2806. DOI: 10.1021/jf204465j. Publication Date (Web): February 21, 2012. Abstract.
We therefore conclude that orally ingested aloe sterols altered the expressions of genes related to glucose and lipid metabolism, and ameliorated obesity-associated metabolic disorders in ZDF rats. These findings suggest that aloe sterols could be beneficial in preventing and improving metabolic disorders with obesity and diabetes in rats.
“Aloe vera: a systematic review of its clinical effectiveness” by B K Vogler and E Ernst. Br J Gen Pract. 1999 October; 49(447): 823–828. Abstract. The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF.
The use of aloe vera is being promoted for a large variety of conditions. Often general practitioners seem to know less than their patients about its alleged benefits.
Even though there are some promising results, clinical effectiveness of oral or topical aloe vera is not sufficiently defined at present.
“Aloe vera leaf gel: a review update” by T Reynolds and A.C Dweck. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 68, Issues 1–3, 15 December 1999, Pages 3–37. Abstract.
There seems to be ever-decreasing doubt that aloe gel has genuine therapeutic properties, certainly for healing of skin lesions and perhaps for many other conditions. It is also clear that the subject is by no means closed and much needs to be discovered, both as to the active ingredients and their biological effects.
“The influence of long-term Aloe vera ingestion on age-related disease in male Fischer 344 rats” by Yuji Ikeno et al. Phytotherapy Research. Volume 16, Issue 8, pages 712–718, December 2002. Abstract.
This study demonstrates that life-long Aloe vera ingestion produced neither harmful effects nor deleterious changes. In addition, Aloe vera ingestion appeared to be associated with some beneficial effects on age-related diseases.
It is easy to see how aloe vera has risen from being a skin moisturizer to a cure for all. The scientific literature at the moment suggests that the jury is still out on this one. Until there is some certainty that all the possible health effects, including the weight loss affect, are all coincidental, aloe vera will continue to be marketed as the new weight loss wonder drug. So, how did it become the latest weight loss fad?