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Aloe vera as a slimming supplement

Too fat? Take two aloe vera capsules at breakfast and another two with lunch. Do that for two months and guess what? You lose almost a kilo of fat and gain half a kilo of lean body mass. At least, you will if you react to aloe vera as well as the subjects did when Ho-Chun Choi and Seok-Joong Kim both working at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea did their experiment.

Aloe vera
Aloe vera


Aloe vera is a succulent plant which people have been using to make cosmetic products for thousands of years. These products, if you're not allergic to the plant, are safe. Extracts of aloe vera are also increasingly found in food and supplements, especially since the rise in popularity of functional foods.

Toxicologists are not a hundred percent happy with this: aloe vera contains a laxative substance, aloin, which is an anthraquinone [first structural formula above at right]. The FDA decided in 2002 that this substance could not be used in laxatives while its safety cannot be guaranteed. [Federal Register: May 9, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 90)] Aloin may be carcinogenic, according to the FDA.

We don't know whether this substance is present in the aloe vera supplements that the Koreans tested. Those capsules contained Aloe QDM complex: 147 mg processed aloe vera gel and 3 mg aloesin [second structural formula above] per capsule. The potentially risky aloin is usually found in aloe vera gel.

The extracts that the Koreans used were produced by Univera, a manufacturer of aloe vera products. [] Univera sponsored the study.

The Koreans used 120 subjects in their study, all of whom were not only obese, but also had stage-1 type-2 diabetes. Half of them were given a placebo for 8 weeks; the other half were given 4 capsules containing the aloe vera extract every day.

In the 8 weeks that the experiment lasted, the subjects that had been given aloe vera lost 0.9 kg fat and gained 0.6 kg lean body mass.

Aloe vera as a slimming supplement

Aloe vera as a slimming supplement

The HOMA-IR, a measure of insulin insensitivity, went down in the aloe vera users. The fasting glucose level [FBG] also decreased. This effect was already known from animal studies. [Biol Pharm Bull. 2006 Jul;29(7):1418-22.] [Phytother Res. 2001 Mar;15(2):157-61.]

The Koreans are not sure exactly how the supplement works. Reading between the lines, it looks as though they think aloe vera might improve body composition by making cells more sensitive to insulin.

"Aloe QDM complex reduced body weight and body fat mass and improved insulin sensitivity in obese patients with prediabetic and early untreated diabetes", the Koreans concluded. "Studies are needed to evaluate the effects of the long-term use of the Aloe QDM complex in patients with overt diabetes."

It might be a good idea to stay clear of slimming supplements that contain aloe vera until it's certain that they are safe. Like the FDA in 2002, toxicologists at the National Center for Toxicological Research in the US also said in 2006 that they were not completely sure about the reliability of food and supplements containing aloe vera. Rats that are fed aloe vera extracts in their drinking water have been known to develop cancer. [J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev. 2006 Apr;24(1):103-54.]

Nutrition. 2013 Sep;29(9):1110-4.