Irvingia gabonensis is a tree species indigenous to parts of Africa which bears a fruit referred to as the African bush mango. While the edible fruit is used to produce jellies, jams and even wine (Akubor, 1996), it is the seed of the African mango that has received a lot of recent media attention, including a feature on the Dr. Oz Show.
The seed of Irvingia gabonensis (IG) is rich in proteins and fats and is valued for its high dietary fiber content, making it an ideal thickening agent used by African tribes (Oboh & Ekperigin, 2004). The seed is now being praised as a natural and healthy way to increase fat metabolism and improve overall health (Oben, Ngondi, & Blum, 2008). Consequently, clinical research has begun to investigate the use of IG supplementation as a weight loss aide.
So what does the research have to say? In a randomized double-blind placebo controlled investigation, participants were given 150 mg of the isolated IG extract, OB131, prior to meals twice daily for 10 weeks. At the end of 10 weeks, participants that received the supplement showed lower appetite, weight, LDL cholesterol, blood glucose, and reduced growth of fat cells in overweight and obese individuals (Ngondi, Etoundi, Nyangono, Mbofung, & Oben, 2009). Based on the findings it is difficult to determine whether the supplement itself is an effective fat burner or whether the reduced caloric intake of these individuals accounts for the effects observed.
In another study, the combined use of Cissus quandragularis with Irvingia gabonensis produced significant weight loss results in overweight individuals (Oben, Ngondi, Momo, Agbor, & Sobgui, 2008). The combined treatment, however, makes it impossible to isolate the effects of Irvingia gabonensis in this study. It should be also noted that in both studies, as well as anecdotal stories from individuals who have used the supplement, weight loss plateaus after a few weeks of supplementation.
Another consideration to keep in mind when interpreting these results is the possible conflict of interest; studies investigating the role of IG seeds are all funded by the makers of this supplement. However, as of yet, no adverse effects of taking IG supplements have been reported at weight-loss doses.
African Mango Supplements
Currently, IG supplements are predominantly obtained through Internet purchases where authenticity of the supplement cannot be guaranteed. Importantly, a study of five different sources of the supplement found that one contained traces from a different fruit seed entirely, and the four others did not contain detectable amounts of authentic African mango seed extract (Sun & Chen, 2012).
Consumers should be aware that African mango seed labels do not provide accurate information as proper standardization and quality control is not currently being carried out. What is the take home message? There is limited evidence suggesting that supplementing one’s diet with African mango extract has a beneficial effect on weight loss and appetite suppression and the studies available are questionable due to conflicts of interest and methodological design flaws.
More research should be conducted and quality control of supplement production would be advised.
Akubor, P. I. (1996). The suitability of African bush mango juice for wine production. Plant Foods Hum Nutr, 49(3), 213-219. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8865330
Ngondi, J. L., Etoundi, B. C., Nyangono, C. B., Mbofung, C. M., & Oben, J. E. (2009). IGOB131, a novel seed extract of the West African plant Irvingia gabonensis, significantly reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight humans in a randomized double-blind placebo controlled investigation. Lipids Health Dis, 8, 7. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-8-7
African Mango, Leaf Mother – www.leafmother.com/african-mango/
Oben, J. E., Ngondi, J. L., & Blum, K. (2008). Inhibition of Irvingia gabonensis seed extract (OB131) on adipogenesis as mediated via down regulation of the PPARgamma and leptin genes and up-regulation of the adiponectin gene. Lipids Health Dis, 7, 44. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-7-44
Oben, J. E., Ngondi, J. L., Momo, C. N., Agbor, G. A., & Sobgui, C. S. (2008). The use of a Cissus quadrangularis/Irvingia gabonensis combination in the management of weight loss: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Lipids Health Dis, 7, 12. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-7-12
Oboh, G., & Ekperigin, M. M. (2004). Nutritional evaluation of some Nigerian wild seeds. Nahrung, 48(2), 85-87. doi:10.1002/food.200200254 Sun, J., & Chen, P. (2012). Ultra high-performance liquid chromatography with high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis of African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) seeds, extract, and related dietary supplements. J Agric Food Chem, 60(35), 8703-8709. doi:10.1021/jf302703u