"Hey Doc, would you consider writing about this topic?"
It's a question I get all the time from readers and folks in our office.
One of the reasons we created Health & Wealth Bulletin was to touch on many different topics. Everything from a tennis ball massage to trailing stop losses gets into our letter.
We love getting topic requests. The more the better.
Recently, a co-worker asked us about drinking aloe – one of the latest health fads.
Aloe vera drinks have experienced a burst of popularity in the past few years. That's why when one of our editors told me he'd started drinking it and wanted my opinion, I had to look into it.
It's undeniable the aloe plant has healing properties. People have used it for centuries to treat minor burns and cuts. Studies on topical application shows evidence of the benefit. Basically, if you have a nasty burn, aloe will definitely help. And aloe gel improves dental conditions like canker sores.
But what about drinking it? Generally speaking, the evidence just isn't there. Some people use aloe drinks as a laxative. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually pulled the laxative, aloe latex, from stores. The reason: they couldn't prove it was safe to use.
Second, you might read about the effects of aloe juice on diabetes. There are several studies about aloe lowering fasting blood glucose and even cholesterol. However, the studies to date haven't been of good quality.
Most aloe vera trials also aren't randomized and blinded, meaning they're still preliminary and need a lot more supportive evidence.
And here's what really gives us pause...
An FDA study done on rats a few years ago demonstrated that aloe extract caused tumors. The researchers saw that the extract irritated the large intestines of rats. These rats then developed colon growths. And the greater the amount of aloe extract, the more tumors grew.
Another important point... aloe readily picks up minerals and metals in the soil.
Researchers in India found that aloe absorbs heavy metals, which can cause health issues in humans if they consume too much. These include things like vomiting, diarrhea, nerve dysfunction, and anemia.
The other issue we have with these popular drinks... many add a ton of sugar. That's because aloe juice is naturally bitter and grassy tasting.
In the end, it appears that any benefits from aloe drinks are probably overhyped at best and dangerously under-studied at worst. If anything, aloe helps us because of its antioxidant and antimicrobial effects.
But there are so many safer, more thoroughly studied sources of antioxidants out there. Try a few handfuls of blueberries instead.
And remember, any time you hear about the latest "fad," do your homework. If the research isn't there, don't join the following. Be critical and contrarian not only in your portfolio, but in common sense health advice, too.
What We're Reading...
- A look at the evidence.
- Something different: Bidding adios to a music legend.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 15, 2017