Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Dr Oz: regular dose of bull

A part of me says that I should stop blogging about terrible advice given by Dr Oz. I know that I’m largely preaching to the choir. However, as long as he keeps spewing incorrect, and potentially dangerous advice, I can’t help but hope that some of his devotees will stumble across my rantings and question his assertions. So… What has he done now? Check out this tweet:

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In the past, aloe vera latex was used to treat constipation. However, due to concerns about dependency, it was removed from the market in 2002 (1). Aloe vera juice may also be effective as a laxative (2); however, there are additional concerns (3) to take into consideration before making blanket recommendations. As many pregnant women suffer from constipation, I think that it’s important to mention that consumption of aloe vera (juice or gel or latex) is not recommended during pregnancy as there is a risk of uterine contractions.

Considering that there are numerous concerns surrounding the supplemental use of aloe vera, and many known safe and effective ways to improve regularity, the recommendation that people drink aloe juice daily to relieve constipation is baffling. Stick to the tried and true: increase fibre (through whole grains, seeds (such as ground flax and chia, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, and possibly a supplement) and water intake, try prune juice, exercise, coffee (if you are able to consume caffeine). Some medications and medical conditions may cause constipation. If this is something that you’re experiencing on a regular basis, you should check with your doctor to see if a medication can be changed or if there is an underlying condition causing your constipation.



Aloe vera juice: another instance where natural may not be best

Aloe vera

The CSPI recently released a statement deeming aloe vera beverages unsafe to drink. This statement was based on research by the US government. The CSPI doesn’t provide a link to the research but I believe that it was this rat study published in 2012. As you know, I’m the first to be skeptical of any mouse or rat research. After all, these species are very different from humans and results seen with them does not necessarily translate to similar results seen with humans. However, this study does give me pause to reconsider consumption of aloe vera juices.

There has been limited research on aloe vera juice to date. However, the little research that does exist seems to lend support solely to the topical application of aloe vera. I might add, that there is conflicting research as to the wound healing properties of aloe vera. It appears that in some people topical application of aloe to cuts may actually exacerbate the problem and delay healing. Oral consumption of aloe vera is also not recommended for pregnant women as it can induce contractions.

The current rat study was conducted over the course of two years. During which time the rats were given water containing either no aloe, 0.5, 1, or 1.5% aloe vera. I’m a little unclear as to whether or not the rats were provided with any beverages besides the aloe vera laced water and how much aloe vera these concentrations would translate to for human consumption. I do think that these things matter when drawing conclusions from the results as we know that excessive consumption of anything is bad for you and it may be that the higher concentrations would be far more aloe vera than anyone would realistically consume. However, it’s very interesting to note that no intestinal tumors were seen in the rats consuming the 0 or 0.5% concentrations while a significant number of rats consuming the 1 and 1.5% concentrations developed intestinal tumors. Even if these rats were especially susceptible to intestinal tumors (which as far as I can tell they aren’t, although they are susceptible to liver carcinomas) you would then expect to see intestinal tumors developing in all of the groups, not just those ingesting the higher concentrations of aloe vera.

The rats were given aloe vera whole leaf extract which might also have played a role in the negative findings. It’s possible that different results might be found for the consumption of just the inner-fillet. Regardless, until further research is done, you might want to think twice before consuming aloe vera juice on a regular basis. Just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you.