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Inside Aloe - MPS Aloe MucoPolySaccharides
by Dr Pelley PhD., MD

The Story of Aloe Polysaccharides

By Ronald P. Pelley, PhD., M.D. Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology The University of Texas Medical Branch

One of the aspects of Aloe that causes more confusion than any other is the subject of polysaccharides. On the one hand polysaccharides are integral to the chemical composition of Aloe. They are one of the truly unique things to Aloe and are important to many of the benefits of Aloe. On the other hand, scientifically inaccurate disinformation on Aloe polysaccharides has systematically been spread by a very small minority of companies in the health food industry.

Disinformation Warning

Information on polysaccharides that is not recognized as valid by any regulatory agency is being disseminated by several companies. This information is contrary to all of the pub­lished data in the scientific literature. This disinformation is also contrary to the beliefs and practices of the over 150 companies that make up the IASC. Scientifically invalid tests for the measurement of polysaccharides have been promoted. These tests have now been rejected by the legitimate Aloe industry headed by the IASC.

Unfortunately, some of these invalid tests have cost the industry tens of millions of dollars in losses because they made possible the selling of modified cornstarch passed off as Aloe. Most of the companies engaged in this fraud have ceased their practices. However, there still remain a very small number of individuals and companies who still refuse to adhere to the principles espoused by the IASC. The Ethics and Science & Technology Committees of the IASC, together with the Board of Directors of the IASC is working together with regulatory agencies and law enforcement officials to protect the public from such fraudulent activities. Until these efforts are completely successful, a detailed knowledge of the scientific and technical aspects of Aloe polysaccharides is the best protection against fraud and misrepresentation. This will be particularly helpful in aiding honest companies selling high quality prod­ucts and will differentiate them from companies engaging in unethical activities.

Aloe Polysaccharides and Their Measurement Part of the disinformation disseminated concerns what polysaccharides are in Aloe and how they are measured. A technical statement on this subject has been prepared for the IASC and published by them Feb. 1996. The report is concerned with the nature and content of polysaccharides in Aloe, how to measure them, and how not to measure them. The test offered in the report is proposed only as an interim test and will undoubtedly be super­seded in the future by a more modern test.

However, the IASC has accepted that the data generated by these older tests is of great utility to the Aloe industry. The following statements summarize the findings.

1. There is one polysaccharide, an acetylated mannan that comprises approximately 90% or more of the polysaccharide of fresh "Aloe Vera Gel" from fillets.

2. There are two other polysaccharides, one a galactan and the other an acidic galacturonide (pectin), that are minor con­stituents of fresh "Aloe Vera Gel" from fillets.

3. It is possible that, during regular industrial processing of Aloe, certain legitimate processes destroy the acetylated mannan. In some cases - such as the use of high concen­trations of cellulase during extraction of Whole Leaf Aloe - this polysaccharide can be almost completely destroyed. This results in preparations where the galactans and pectin's comprise a larger than usual portion of the polysaccharide. This does not mean that this material is no longer Aloe; it means that this material is Aloe with a low content of acetylated mannan.

4. The test called the Methanol Precipitable Solids test MPS Test does not measure polysaccharide. It measures polysaccharide plus a complex of alcohol insoluble salts and organic acids. Thus the values for "polysaccharide" generated by this test are significantly higher than the real levels measured by conventional biochemical tests.

5. The IASC does not endorse the MPS and is discouraging the use of the test as the basis for a label claim.

6. In particular the Methanol Precipitable Solids Test (MPS Test) gives a false reading in the case of Whole Leaf Aloe which has been treated with cellulase as a part of legitimate processing. The MPS test makes this material appear to have a normal or even superior level of polysaccharides. Wittingly or unwittingly certain companies have used this test to label and promote their product as having high levels of polysaccharide whereas in fact this product may have lower than expected levels of polysaccharide. Although most companies have ceased this practice a few still persist in it. Consumers should be advised as to the potential for misrepresentation in this area.

7. The MPS test fails to identify Aloe powders which contain significant amounts of the modified cornstarch product maltodextrin. Furthermore, the MPS Test has failed to distinguish between legitimate Freeze Dried Aloe Vera and maltodextrin (although the IASC Certification Tests are capable of telling the difference). In the past, several companies have taken advantage of this to sell maltodextrin as Aloe. The IASC has vigorously pursued this problem and at present is not aware of any raw material vendors engaging in this practice. However, Consumer Product Manufacturers should be aware of the potential for this form of fraud, particularly in products being promoted using the MPS Test

8. Because of the lack of scientific validity of the MPS Test and its past history of use in the promotion of misrepresentation and fraud, it would be prudent to examine with great care products being promoted via this test.

9. The term Mucopolysaccharide has been misused by certain individuals in the promotion of Aloe. All reputable scientists agree that plants do not have mucopolysaccharides. It is suspected that the origin of this term arose through confusion between the terms Mutinous Polysaccharides (which are characteristic of Aloe) with Mucopolysaccharide (nitrogen containing polysaccharides found in animals and bacteria).

10. Given the scientific agreement that Aloe does not possess mucopolysaccharides and the fact that the MPS test does not measure mucopolysaccharides, it would be prudent to con­sider critically Aloe products promoted for mucopolysaccharide content by the MPS Test.

The above should not be used to denigrate any company that has previously used the MPS test or that previously promoted "mucopolysaccharides" in Aloe. It should be realized that the Aloe industry is rather technically unsophisticated. The industry has suffered more than enough financial losses through fraud­ulent competition by maltodextrin to pay penance for its naiveté. Now that the IASC has set the record straight on MPS and "mucopolysaccharides", it is time for the industry to once and for all reject pseudoscience and protect its customers against fraud and misrepresentation. It will only be through acceptance of solid scientific tests and evidence that the Aloe industry will get the recognition and consumer acceptance that it deserves.

The product statements have not been evaluated by FDA and the products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or medical condition. Contents of this website are for informational purposes should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease.