Originally native to Africa within countries spanning from Angola to Uganda, the African Mango (Irvingia gabonensis) has been used widely as a jam, jelly and wine by native populations. A valuable and tradable commodity in Africa, the African Mango seeds themselves, called “dika nuts”, are especially valuable. Dika nuts can be cracked open to access the much sought after endosperm contained within this exotic seed.
The endosperm can be used for cooking oils, cosmetics and even coloring dyes. Recent attention has been drawn to the nutritional content contained within the fleshy centers and kernels of this fruit.
Perhaps the main attraction of African Mango in contemporary western culture is its use as an alleged weight loss supplement. In one study, participants were divided into two groups and given either 1050mg African Mango extract or a placebo. The participants consumed either their African Mango or placebo pills half an hour before each meal, three times per day. The study was fully double blinded (meaning not even the scientists and experimenters were aware of which pills contained African Mango or the placebo).
Participants in both groups were also advised to eat a low fat and healthy diet. At the conclusion of the study, it was allegedly found the group supplemented with the African Mango extract had significantly reduced hip and waist circumference compared to the placebo group. Also noted was a marked decrease in blood pressure 1.
Mechanism Of Action
There is evidence to suggest the mechanism of how African Mango works is quite unique. Allegedly the fibre contained within the seed extract inhibits the body’s ability to empty the stomach, allowing the stomach to gradually release sugar into the blood over time. The effect is allegedly a decrease in the initial blood sugar spike after a meal, with a sustained, longer term gentle release taking place 2. Other unique reported effects of the African Mango extract include its ability to bind to volatile acids in the gut and release them during defecation, resulting in a net lowering of blood cholesterol 3, with several studies suggesting that general dietary fibre intake also reduces “bad” cholesterol within the body 4-5.
In another study, overweight/obese participants were administered a lower dosage of only 150mg African Mango extract twice daily before meals. This study allegedly confirmed prior findings, stating that the treated participants had a marked reduction in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and fatty acid levels in addition to significant improvements in body weight, body fat and waist circumference when compared to the placebo group. The authors even went so far as to state that large scale population trials should be conducted in order to see whether African Mango may be of use to treat the global obesity epidemic. The trial lasted for 10 weeks 6.
But one should be cautious before believing that this is the miracle fat loss supplement they are looking for. In a large scale review of prior studies, whilst it was confirmed that weight loss did allegedly occur in the participants supplemented with African Mango, the authors criticized the way the studies were conducted, saying the trials weren’t of optimal quality, and that higher quality, larger trials were needed before any findings could be confirmed 7.
The Role Of Insulin Resistance In Obesity
Unfortunately, obesity is now a leading health epidemic worldwide. No longer classified as a “first world” disease, many third world countries are experiencing stoutness, which leads to increased incidence of heart disease, decreased immune function and a variety of other disabling health conditions 8-9. One of the leading mechanisms of disease caused by obesity is insulin resistance. As individuals consume more food, the nutrients within their body become unbalanced as excessive fats are stored. Lifestyle alone however isn’t the sole factor responsible for obesity; some individuals have genes which naturally predispose them to being overweight, particularly if these genes run in their family. The net result: increased cardiovascular disease risk via hypertension 10.
One novel method of tackling obesity, and one that has been used for many years under different names, is calorie restriction. By limiting the number of calories in the diet, insulin resistance may be reversed 11. Whilst a higher fibre diet has long been hailed as a way to limit the progression of insulin resistance and to treat obesity in general, a study found that it’s not the fibre within African Mango that leads to its alleged weight reducing effects, but rather its seed extracts. Allegedly, the seed extracts modulate leptin and other biochemicals resulting in a reduction of net body fat synthesis 11-12.
Antioxidant Activity Of African Mango
Like with a lot of weight loss supplements, antioxidant activity in African Mango is apparently responsible for a number of observed health benefits. The free radical scavenging capability of its extracts is reportedly quite high when compared to other types of fruits and mango 13. Indeed, a study examining the chemical composition of African Mango and other plants found that African Mango’s antioxidant capabilities could lead to potential health benefits, and may therefore be beneficial for incorporation into a standard diet 14.
African Mango isn’t restricted to the realm of obesity treatment either it seems. In a study examining the fruit’s bark extracts, it was found that a number of the fruit’s unique compounds can be used as both antimicrobial and antifungal agents 15. The fruit has also traditionally been used in Africa as an analgesic (pain killer). A study examining these effects allegedly found that when its bark goes through a water extraction process, its pain relieving activity is comparable to that of morphine 16. Further studies are needed to confirm these alleged findings of analgesia; furthermore it is unlikely that standard extracts would offer such benefits.
Based on the studies we have covered in this article, normal dosages for weight management seem to range from 150mg to 1000mg as needed before meals. Recommended dosage time appears to be between 30 to 60 minutes before each meal. Unfortunately, ascertaining an optimal dosage is not possible given the limited amount of large scale studies in humans. Some studies suggest supplementing 300mg dosages to be ideal, although such suggestions lack further confirmation by the wider scientific community. We recommend a unique daily dosage based upon our own conclusion which you can find on the Supplement Facts section of all of our products.
In most studies conducted and in native populations, African Mango has been well tolerated. Like with almost all substances, there are rare exceptions. A man was reportedly admitted to hospital having experienced symptoms of jaundice, abdominal pain and malaise. The patient had a history of obesity and arthritis. The man stated that he had been consuming 350mg pill extracts of African Mango twice a day, for the prior ten days, in order to reduce his body weight. Allegedly, liver function tests were normal before he began supplementation, and he stated he wasn’t consuming any other medications. A diagnosis of hepatitis was provided 17.
It should be noted that this is allegedly an extremely rare occurrence, as no other such hepatotoxic (liver toxic) effects were reported in the prior studies mentioned in this article. There is also possibly other explanations for this patient’s hepatitis which the original clinicians may not have considered. Nevertheless, based upon this instance, it is advisable to not consume African Mango without guidance of a physician if you are suffering from acute liver injury of any kind, or are taking other substances which may tax your liver.
Most common side effects reported in studies (in less than 10% of people taking the supplements) were headache, insomnia and nausea. Upon further examination however, these side effects may be no more likely to occur than with any other substance; as the studies that reported these side effects also reported similar side effects in groups taking placebo pills (pills that didn’t contain any African Mango extract).
A study conducting an extensive side effect profile of African Mango in rats over a period of 90 days noted no obvious changes in clinical health when the rats were supplemented with 2500mg/kg of body weight per day 18.
Since African Mango is alleged to lower insulin resistance and blood sugar levels, those suffering from diabetes should exercise caution before beginning supplementation, as symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may occur. Also, research into the effects of this fruit in breast feeding mothers and pregnant women is limited, therefore caution should be advised if you fall into these groups. As always, we recommend consulting with a health care professional before beginning any supplement regime.
Overall, whilst the research we covered regarding the alleged weight loss benefits of African Mango does sound encouraging, it should be mentioned that many scientific studies often fail replication when conducted in larger populations. One should also be cautious that scientists haven’t been funded by weight loss companies in order to influence findings. All in all however, African Mango does seem to show promise as a weight loss supplement. Nevertheless, consistent larger scale clinical trials of its efficacy are lacking, and therefore only individual use can determine whether this supplement will be of any use in your diet.
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Species: I. gabonensis
Diarrhea, Hemorrhage, Leukorrhea, Metrorrhagia, Piles, Rheumatism, Vermifuge, Weight Management
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ClinicalTrials.gov ID: NCT02354339
Effect of Irvingia Gabonensis Administration on Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Secretion and Insulin Sensitivity
ClinicalTrials.gov ID: NCT00645775
Effect of Irvingia Gabonensis (Bush Mango) on Parameters Associated With Metabolic Syndrome
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