African mango extract has received a good deal of attention in the last several years as a dietary supplement. Irvingia gabonensis, also known as wild mango, dika, and bush mango, is a fruit that grows in western and west-central Africa. It’s not a true mango that consumers would find on supermarket shelves, but the juicy pulp tastes similar. Inside the African mango’s flesh is a nutrient-rich seed. The seeds of African mango are rich in protein, fiber, and polysaccharides.
The seed has been widely publicized as a remedy for a variety of ailments, from obesity to high blood sugar and high cholesterol.
How Extracts Are Made
In general, plant extracts are manufactured using a variety of methods. Part of a plant may be macerated, cold-pressed, or soaked in alcohol, ethanol, and/or water to gain an extract. These liquids act as solvents to dissolve the plant material to yield a mixture that contains the desired qualities of the plant. The qualities of the extract will depend on the solvent used. Extracts can range from full extracts that contain the entire spectrum of qualities of the original plant, to single extracts that contain one compound. An example of a single extract would be caffeine from coffee. Extracts provide certain advantages over the raw plant material, including improved possibilities for preservation and storage.
Scientific Analysis of African Mango Extracts
African mango seed extracts, both proprietary and non-patented, have been examined in a handful of peer-reviewed scientific studies. A double-blind randomized study of forty human subjects found that participants who took Irvingia gabonensis extract experienced decreases in body weight,total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides. Subjects in this study also showed increases in HDL-cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or “good cholesterol”).
A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial of one hundred and two human subjects administered a proprietary African mango seed extract. Some improvements in body weight and metabolic parameters were recorded by the researchers.
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of forty-eight overweight human subjects showed some weight reduction among subjects who took African mango seed extract. However, the weight loss effect was not observed for several weeks. Serological tests showed some improvements in lipid measurements for the group that received the mango seed extract.
A laboratory study of diabetic rats administered extracts of African mango leaves and bark to the subjects. This study had mixed results on blood sugar levels and weight. Some rats that received aqueous extracts of mango leaves gained body weight, while others showed improvement in blood sugar levels. Questions were raised regarding the potential toxicity of the mango extracts used.
There are few peer-reviewed studies using African mango extracts. Some criticisms of the existing studies include: small sample sizes, potential conflicts of interest, methodological flaws, and lack of longitudinal data about the effects of long-term consumption of such extracts. A literature review of existing peer-reviewed data on weight-loss supplements found that other plant-based weight-loss supplements had been researched more thoroughly and with better results. Additional research is needed to determine whether or not African mango extracts can be used as effective health-enhancing supplements.