Is Aloe Juice Good for Diabetes? Here's What a Dietitian Says
Aloe vera juice has been gaining popularity, and you may have seen the juice on supermarket shelves. But what exactly is it? And is it good for you? There are numerous purported health benefits that have been swirling around social media, one of which that it's good for people with diabetes. Here's a look at the science that examines the effects of aloe vera juice on blood sugar in people with diabetes.
What Is Aloe Vera Juice?
The aloe vera plant is one of many plants in the aloe species. It grows in climates that hot and dry, including the Mediterranean, Middle East, India, and Africa. In the U.S., aloe is cultivated in Florida, Texas, and Arizona. The plant is a succulent and its leaves are made up of a clear gel that helps the plant store water. You may be familiar with aloe vera gel, as it is often used to alleviate sunburn. Aloe vera juice is made from this same gel. It's a thick, gooey liquid that's made by crushing or grinding the leaf of the aloe vera plant to extract the gel, filtering it, and adding water to turn it into a liquid. The flavor of aloe vera juice is slightly bitter and citrusy.
The Nutrition Low Down
Nutritionally, aloe vera juice is mostly water with a small amount of carbohydrates from sugar. It contains minute amounts of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B12, C, and E—a small percent of the recommended daily value of each unless the food manufacturer adds nutrients to the product. If an aloe drink is fortified with a vitamin or mineral, it will be listed under the ingredient list.
Because of its bitter taste, aloe juice is often made with added sugar or natural or artificial flavors. For example, the first three ingredients listed in one popular original aloe drink are purified water, sugar, and aloe vera pulp. The order of ingredients listed means that there is more sugar than aloe in the drink, which is typical for most of the aloe juices found on market shelves. One cup of this beverage contains 110 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 26 grams of sugar and 25 milligrams of sodium. That many carbohydrates in a drink (about two carb servings) is a lot, especially considering the drink doesn't fill you up the way a snack would.
What the Research Says
There is a small amount of research that looks at whether aloe vera supplementation can be helpful in managing diabetes. However all of this research uses aloe vera supplements or extracts, not aloe vera juice. For example, a 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis looked at the effect of aloe vera supplementation on glycemic control of people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Eight trials with a total of 470 subjects were included. The results from these trials suggest that aloe vera may have an impact on blood glucose in people with prediabetes: the trials found that aloe vera significantly improved fasting blood glucose, but had no long-term effect on the hemoglobin A1C, which provides a picture of blood glucose levels from the previous 90 days. Researchers concluded that In folks with type 2 diabetes, aloe vera may help improve blood glucose control with a small improvement seen in fasting blood glucose and a significant improvement in hemoglobin A1C. Although this meta-analysis showed possible potential benefits of aloe vera to help improve blood sugar control in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, they used different doses of aloe vera supplements, not aloe vera juice. A better controlled randomized trial is needed to see if there are any benefits of using aloe vera juice or standard amounts of aloe vera supplements.
In a 2015 randomized control trial, 72 people with symptoms of prediabetes took aloe vera capsules (300 mg, 500 mg, or placebo). Those who took aloe vera capsules showed a decrease in either fasting blood sugar or hemoglobin A1C after 4 weeks, or a decrease in triglycerides (blood fat levels) after 8 weeks, depending on the dosage they took. Researchers concluded that taking aloe vera supplements could potentially help with blood glucose management in people with diabetes within 4 weeks and even help with blood lipid levels after 8 weeks. Again, this study was done with supplements and not aloe vera juice and with a small number of participants.
Although the above research showcases positive effects found by using aloe vera supplements, the types of supplements that were used in these studies are not consistent. They include multiple forms of aloe vera such as gel powder, extract, raw crushed leaves, and freshly extracted liquid. The doses also varied significantly, as did the duration of the studies . Because of the variation between the studies, the small sample sizes, and the wide variability of the form and dose, the research really doesn't hold much merit at this time.
In addition, some research has not found a positive effect of aloe vera on blood glucose levels. In a 2013 study published in Nutrition, 136 people with prediabetes or early diabetes were given aloe vera gel or placebo. The results showed that the difference between both groups fasting blood sugar at 8 weeks was not significantly different. Although people given aloe vera gel had improved insulin resistance and weight loss compared to the placebo group.
What Can You Do Instead?
The aloe vera juice sold in markets tends to have added sugar, which will not help with blood glucose management and can actually cause it to spike. And the evidence regarding aloe vera on its own is limited and not conclusive at this time. Talk to your doctor if you have more questions about aloe and diabetes. It's best to skip the aloe vera juice to help manage your blood sugar. Instead, try these three alternatives that research shows can help.
Fill your plate using the Plate Method
In my book The Create Your Plate Diabetes Cookbook published by the American Diabetes Association, I discuss the Diabetes Plate Method. To help people with diabetes manage their blood glucose, this method recommends filling half your plate with low-carbohydrate vegetables (like spinach or broccoli), one-quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods like whole grains, fruits, or dairy, and the last one-quarter with lean protein (meat, fish, eggs, or plant-based protein). Your plate should also include a small amount of fat (like avocado or olive oil for your dressing) and a no-calorie beverage. Find inspiration with these Diabetes-Friendly Easy Plate Method Dinners.
Opt for foods with fiber
Whole grains like quinoa and brown rice are high in fiber, which helps slow down how quickly nutrients are absorbed into the body, including sugar. Eating foods with fiber can help minimize spikes in your blood sugar. Get started with our 5 Easy Ways to Eat More Fiber.
Plan your meals
Advance planning can help you avoid the spikes and dips in blood sugar that come from lack of readily available food or consuming too much of it after a period of hunger. You can meal prep fully for the week by dedicating a few hours on one day to make all your meals, or cook with the intention of having leftovers to portion and package for the following days. Learn more with our Healthy Meal Plans and Tips for people with diabetes.