Category: Diet Hacks
What is My Microbiome? Long overlooked, the bacteria in our digestive tracts are increasingly a subject of scientific and medical focus as the source of both many common maladies and their potential cures. Indeed, our digestive microflora – our microbiome of gut bacteria – […]
Aloe vera is a tropical plant cultivated for medicinal uses, food, beauty products, and as a decorative plant. It is also known as burn plant, lily of the desert, and elephant’s gall. Aloe vera grows to about 2 feet tall with thick, spiky green leaves. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), aloe vera’s use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where this versitile “plant of immortality,” was presented as a funeral gift to pharaohs.
Due to its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties, aloe vera has been used throughout history for a multitude of ailments. Today, aloe vera is often used straight from the plant, in a clear gel, as aloe latex, or as aloe juice.
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel is primarily used topically as a remedy for skin conditions such as wounds, burns, frostbite, psoriasis, rashes, itching, hair loss, dandruff, canker sores and cold sores. A 2014 study also showed aloe vera to be an effective alternative to chemical-based dental rinses to alleviate bad breath, relieve swollen gums, and prevent plaque build-up.
Although aloe vera is primarily used topically, it may also be taken orally for conditions including osteoarthritis, bowel diseases, constipation and fever. At one time the FDA regulated aloe latex as over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives, but in 2002, the FDA required that all OTC aloe laxative products be removed from the U.S. market or reformulated because the companies that manufactured them did not provide the safety data necessary for continued approval. Off label use as a laxative is still common, however.
There is also preliminary evidence that aloe vera may also be helpful in reducing the risk of lung cancer or tumor growth, improve chemotherapy effects, and reduce cholesterol. More studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of these therapeutic uses.
Because aloe vera contains an anti-inflammatory compound called B-sitosterol, juices containing aloe vera gel dissolved in water or fruit juice are increasingly being used to soothe acid indigestion. A safe amount to consume is ¼ cup of gel dissolved in ½ cup water or juice. Larger doses could work as a laxative, so don’t over do it.
A 1996 study published in Phytomedicine also showed that aloe vera juice can help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
For dosing recommendations, visit the Mayo Clinic’s site which has dosing information for both adults and children: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/aloe/dosing/hrb-20058665.
Possible Adverse Health Effects
- Topical use of aloe vera is considered to be safe.
- People with diabetes who use glucose-lowering medication should be cautious if also taking aloe orally because it may lower blood glucose levels.
- People with Crohn’s disease or colitis should be aware that abdominal cramps and diarrhea have been reported with oral use of aloe latex.
- A 2010 National Toxicology Program study found that oral consumption of nondecolorized whole leaf extract of aloe vera caused carcinogenic activity in rats.
- There have been a few reported cases of acute hepatitis in people who took aloe vera orally. However, according to the FDA the evidence is not definitive and more study is needed.
Although there are many proven benefits to using aloe vera, in general it’s always a good idea to discuss any complementary or integrative health approaches you are using with your doctor. This will help ensure your care is managed safely and appropriately.
That terrible feelings after you’ve had too much to drink may include dizziness, headache, nausea, dry mouth, diarrhea, impaired cognition, and exhaustion. Although experts aren’t quite sure what causes a hangover, some theorize it may come from dehydration (alcohol is a diuretic), toxic alcohol metabolites […]
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recently issued a warning that bee pollen products claiming to help you lose weight or reshape your body could be dangerous. These products are widely available in health stores, fitness centers, spas, and are even touted by some health […]
The BBC reported in March 2017 that a common food that is a large part of diets today is making us fat. According to recent research, upwards of fifty percent of the those in industrialized countries are exceeding their ideal body mass index (BMI). By some estimates, over fifty percent of the world’s population is above what is considered to be their healthy weight given their height.
The culprit is a spike in the amount of vegetable oil consumed as part of our diets. In particular, palm and soy oils are so common that they should be considered a primary source of calories, along with other common staples such as wheat, barley, rice, corn, potatoes, and sugar. Indeed, the BBC reported that palm and soy oils together with these other caloric sources account for an astounding eighty-five percent of the world’s average calorie intake.
It is true that fats are a component of a healthy, balanced diet. While consumption of calories from fats are essential for life, soy and palm oils are rich sources of calories. Thus, eating foods fried in these oils compounds the caloric intake and can lead to obesity when not balanced by other foods and when not eaten in moderation.
International Trade Agreements Make Vegetable Oils Cheaper and More Plentiful
Interestingly, it is not simply consumer demand that resulted in the dramatic increase in the use of soy and palm oils. International trade agreements created a dynamic that made these oils cheaper, more profitable, and easier to produce on an industrial scale. Government subsidies in countries that have strong palm oil industries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, served to encourage the clearance of jungle to grown palm trees and incentivized farmers to focus on these crops.
These plentiful and cheap calories have been a boost to impoverished countries whose citizens were lacking in high calorie diets. For those living in highly industrialized countries, however, the increased access to these cheap, high calorie oils infiltrated food preparation to such an extent that caloric intake grew unbounded. Where once foods fried in vegetable oils were a relatively uncommon treat, over recent decades they became plentiful. Consumers responded in force, creating a reinforcing cycle that, scientists posit, has contributed to the distinct rise in obesity rates.
Sedentary Lifestyle and Lack of Regular Exercise Contribute to Higher Obesity Rates
Increased consumption of high calorie vegetable oils is not, however, the entire explanation for the rise in obesity rates. An increasingly sedentary lifestyle and lack of regular exercise are important contributing factors as well. Consumption of highly processed foods and foods high in sugar are other important factors. It would, therefore, be an oversimplification to suggest that palm and soy oils are the sole cause of the increased obesity. The fact remains, that as a common, inexpensive, and calorie intense ingredient in food preparation today, vegetable oils in general contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Obesity Rates May Have Leveled Off
The good news is that recognizing the ease with which caloric intake can spiral out of control by excessive intake of foods prepared with vegetable oils like soy and palm oil is the first step. Understanding the root causes and contributing factors to the obesity epidemic enables consumers to make healthy choices when eating at restaurants or when choosing the ingredients they will cook with at home. There is also some reassuring news in that the obesity rates have remained relatively constant for the past ten years. This signals, perhaps, that the obesity rate may have leveled off, and through informed and healthy choices the obesity rate can be brought down, leading to a healthier population overall.