African mango supplements have received much attention in the last few years in the media. African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) goes by many names: wild mango, bush mango, dika, and ogbono.
The African mango tree is native to western and west-central Africa. The tree grows up to a hundred feet tall, and can grow nearly five feet in diameter. In the rainy season, fruits are produced that superficially resemble the true mango that we are familiar with on supermarket shelves.
African mango is harvested by collecting the fruit that has fallen on the ground. The fruit is typically consumed in season, owing to difficulties in preserving the flesh of the fruit for long periods of time. When the fruit of the African mango is split apart, a single kernel-filled seed is found within. This seed is rich in rich in fatty acids, polysaccharides, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Extracts from the seed are used in dietary supplements that are marketed to consumers to solve a variety of health complaints, including obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Unfortunately, research on these health claims is quite limited. The small number of studies is further complicated by a number of issues, including small sample sizes, and lack of long-term data. Other studies have used animal subjects or in vitro cultures, which can limit generalizability of the results to human subjects.
A few studies have concluded that African mango has beneficial effects for the management of diabetes. Type 2 diabetic patients who were fed an Irvingia gabonensis-supplemented diet showed decreased blood glucose levels and blood lipids. A laboratory study on rats with induced diabetes concluded that rats that received African mango had lower blood glucose, d-lactate dehydrogenase, and pyruvate kinase enzymes than rats that were fed a placebo.
In a randomized, double-blind study, overweight human subjects given African mango seed extract were reported to have decreased blood glucose, leptin, C-reactive protein, and adiponectin levels. The experimental subjects were also reported to have improved plasma lipid profile compared to placebo.
Some studies have observed that experimental groups that took African mango supplements showed overall weight loss and decreases in waist circumference. There have, however, been conflicting reports in which one study found body fat loss among participants, while another did not find any reduction in body fat.
A systematic literature review conducted in a scientific journal, examined the existing peer-reviewed research on several medicinal plants associated with anti-obesity claims. This review explained that while African mango extract showed some beneficial weight loss results in several studies, it was not as effective as many of the other plants included in the review.
A Few Cautions
Use of African mango pills may result in side effects. The most common reported side effects have included headaches, gas, and difficulty sleeping. There has been one reported case study of acute toxic hepatitis resulting after a patient took African mango capsules for several days.
When purchasing African mango diet pills, it may be difficult to ensure contents and quality. A recent peer-reviewed study analyzed seven commercial products claiming to contain African mango extracts. The scientists used high-resolution mass spectrometry and ultra high-performance liquid chromatography to analyze the contents of the products claiming that they contained African mango. The results showed that many of the studied products contained little or no African mango.
While some of the initial scientific research that African mango may have some potential to treat diabetes and obesity, more research is needed to conclusively determine its risks and effectiveness.