Can aloe vera help prevent diabetic nephropathy?

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Aloe vera is one of the most well-known and widely grown medicinal plants on the planet. A succulent plant native to North Africa, Southern Europe and the Canary Islands, aloe vera is now also cultivated in tropical countries around the world.

Aloe vera’s history of use as medicine can be traced back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Dubbed the “plant of immortality” by ancient healers, aloe vera was used by the Egyptians to treat more than 50 different conditions, from burns, acne and dermatitis to more serious diseases like obesity, leprosy, asthma and diabetes.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, Indian researchers investigated the effect of aloe vera treatment in rats with diabetic nephropathy. Also known as diabetic kidney disease, diabetic nephropathy is a result of damage to the kidneys caused by high blood sugar levels. Once the part of the kidney responsible for filtering blood is damaged, it starts leaking protein into your urine – a symptom of the disease. Diabetic nephropathy can lead to chronic kidney disease and kidney failure if not treated promptly.

Aloe vera prevents diabetic nephropathy by lowering cholesterol and reducing oxidative stress

According to previous studies, hyperlipidemia, or abnormally high cholesterol levels, and oxidative stress are involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. On the other hand, treatment with 300 mg/kg body weight aloe vera has been shown to have kidney-protective effects.

To determine if the cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant properties of aloe vera can protect the kidneys from diabetic nephropathy, the researchers obtained whole leaf aloe vera extracts and tested them in rats with diabetes.

They first induced the disease by treating the animals with streptozotocin (STZ), a chemical that’s particularly toxic to beta cells. The beta cells in the pancreas are responsible for producing insulin.

The researchers confirmed the development of diabetic nephropathy using biochemical and histological examinations. They also assessed the lipid profile and renal oxidative stress status of the diabetic rats.

The researchers reported that STZ successfully induced diabetes by triggering oxidative stress in the kidneys and altering the lipid profile of the animals. After eight weeks, STZ-induced diabetes caused nephropathy by increasing serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels. Diabetes also promoted proteinuria and glomerular damage.

On the other hand, oral treatment with 300 mg/kg of aloe vera daily reversed the effects of STZ. It also proved to be more effective against diabetic nephropathy and renal oxidative stress than lisinopril, a known ACE inhibitor that was used as the reference drug. Lisinopril is prescribed to diabetics to prevent kidney problems. These results confirm that diabetes-induced oxidative stress and lipid alterations are involved in the development of diabetic nephropathy.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that aloe vera can be used to prevent diabetes-induced nephropathy, thanks to its blood cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant properties.