Although I love fruit and get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t eat some of it regularly, there are types of fruit I tend to avoid. A mango is one of the fruits I rarely eat, mainly because I just don’t like the taste.

In West Africa the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone uses the stem bark of the African mango to relieve pain- Kathryn Borg

However, it seems that the African mango is the latest weight-loss wonder pill to hit the health food stores in the US and UK, and has been dubbed ‘the miracle in your medicine cabinet’.

Whether or not I believe this is another matter; however I decided to take a closer look at the benefits of mangoes and see what came out.

An African mango (Irvingia gabonesis) is a fleshy West African fruit commonly used in traditional Nigerian and Cameroonian cooking. The seed of the fruit is extracted for use in the supplements. It was featured on an Emmy Award-winning show in the US and subsequently demand soared, both for the fruit and for the supplement. The supplement was claimed to lower cholesterol, increase energy levels, boost metabolism, control cravings and help with weight loss.

Previous research has suggested that the mango may be useful for lowering cholesterol and a variety of other health issues. Fighting infections is one; results of a study have confirmed that the use of Irvingia gabonesis in the treatment of bacterial and fungal infections has been positive as a potent antimicrobial treatment. (J. Ethnopharmacol., 2007).

In West Africa the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone uses the stem bark of Irvingia gabonesis to relieve pain. This was tested by researchers in the University of Nigeria and they found it had similar analgesic properties to those of morphine in protecting mice from heat-induced pain.

After a month of taking a supplement during a clinical trial, the University of Benin saw a significant reduction in patients’ blood glucose levels as well as other biochemical effects when treating patients with type 2 diabetes.

In a mouse study, an extract was found to protect against castor oil induced diarrhea, these results may not be the same in humans of course (Indian J. Exp. Biol., 2004).

So what can it do for weight loss? Unlike some slimming pills on the market, it seems there are several credible scientific studies of the African mango which support the hype around the claims. Most of them were conducted by Judith Ngondi at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon.

In one double blind trial which included a low fat diet, the participants who took the mango supplements lost 5.3 per cent of their body weight while the control group lost only 1.3 per cent.

Waist and hip measurements were also significantly reduced in the African mango group. In addition, the group saw their blood pressure and bad cholesterol decrease. None of these changes were reported in the control group who had taken a placebo. (Lipids in Health and Disease, 2005)

Other studies reported similar results and the researchers concluded that the African mango extract may prove to be a useful tool in dealing with the emerging global epidemics of obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and other associated conditions. (Lipids in Health and Disease, 2009)

So how does it work? The fibre content was one solution. “Like other soluble fibres, Irvingia gabonensis can bind to bile acids in the gut and carry them out of the body in the faeces, which requires the body to convert more cholesterol into bile acids. This can result in the lowering of blood cholesterol as well as other blood lipids,” explained the researchers at the University of Yaounde.

However, more recent research suggests that the African mango’s positive effects are not just down to the fibre content alone. Further studies have suggested that the seeds could also affect fat cells by reducing fat cell growth and increasing the breakdown of fats.

In addition the supplement may have a beneficial impact on the hormones leptin and adiponectin, both of which play key roles in fat metabolism and appetite. (Lipids in Health and Disease, 2008).

The conclusion from other observers of this research is that there have not been enough trials carried out. Tanya Edwards found the results “underwhelming”. Although she had seen some weight reduction in her patients, she felt the results were not the magic bullet she had hoped for.

Conversely there do not seem to be any major side-effects to taking these supplements. The final word appears to be that it would be beneficial to keep an eye open for further research, while eating the fruit is always beneficial and if you want a weight loss supplement, look at all the others available, as well as the research supporting the benefits and side-effects.

Of course, ultimately, a healthy lifestyle, including eating mangoes along with lots of other fruit, is the key, together with regular exercise and plenty of water, all of which will go a long way to making you feel healthier.

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