African mango has been given many names: wild mango, bush mango, dika, and ogbono. Many manufacturers now make African mango available worldwide to consumers in tablet form.
African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) is harvested in western and west-central Africa, where the tree grows in tropical lowlands. During the rainy season, ripe fruit that has fallen on the ground is gathered. When the fruit of the African mango is split apart, a single kernel-filled seed is found within. This seed is rich in fatty acids, polysaccharides, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. The seed is more easily preserved than the fruit, usually be drying or roasting. Extracts from the seed are used in dietary supplements and tablets that are marketed to consumers to help lose weight, control diabetes, and reduce cholesterol.
Support for Health Claims
Unfortunately, research on these health claims is quite limited. There are a small number of peer-reviewed studies to examine, and many of these suffer from small sample sizes and methodological flaws. Some studies have used animal subjects or in vitro cultures, which can limit generalizability of the results to human subjects. No studies have been conducted on the long-term use of African mango.
A systematic literature review conducted in a scientific journal examined the existing peer-reviewed research on several medicinal plants that have been advocated as weight loss solutions. This review concluded that while African mango extract showed some beneficial weight loss results in some studies, it was not as effective as many of the other plants included in the review.
The side effects of African mango are not well-studied. 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 from consumption of African mango capsules.
Still, recent studies show some potential for African mango. 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 who used African mango, while another did not demonstrate any reduction in body fat.
A small number of 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 experienced decreased blood glucose levels and blood lipids. A laboratory study on diabetic rats concluded that rats receiving African mango had lower blood glucose than rats that were fed a placebo.
In a randomized, double-blind study, overweight human subjects given African mango seed extract showed decreased blood glucose levels. The experimental subjects were also reported to have improved plasma lipid profiles compared to the control group.
Tablet Contents – As Advertised?
Consumers should be cautious when making the decision to purchase African mango tablets. A recent peer-reviewed study analyzed seven commercial products that claimed to contain African mango extracts. The researchers used high-resolution mass spectrometry and ultra high-performance liquid chromatography to analyze these contents of the supplements. The results showed that many of the products in the study contained little or no African mango.
While some of the initial scientific research that African mango could have some potential to alleviate symptoms of diabetes and obesity, more research is needed to conclusively determine the risks and effectiveness.