The African mango is one of many common names to describe Irvingia gabonesis, a species of African tree that produces mango-like fruits. The fruit produced is also known as wild mango, bush mango, ogbono, or dika.
The tree prefers warm, humid environments with deep soil penetration, and can be found across Angola, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Côte d’Ivoire. Physically, the plant can grow to over 130 feet tall (40 meters) and 3 feet in diameter (1 meter).
Its bark can be smooth or scaly and ranges in color from gray to gray with a tinge of yellow. The leaves in the canopy are dark green year-round and quite dense. The plant also produces branched flowers that can be yellow or green. The mango fruit is slightly spherical and green when ripe, and the flesh inside is a bright orange pulp. Each fruit contains one seed, which germinates “epigeally,” which means that the seed germinates, or grows into a plant, above ground.
The African mango has many culinary and practical uses. It can be used to make jelly, jam, or juice, and has even been fermented into wine. The pulp can also be used to produce a dye for staining clothing. The seeds, sometimes called “dika nuts,” can be eaten raw or roasted for additional flavor. Most commonly, however, the seeds are made into butter, paste, or oil for cooking. The extracted oil can even be used to make soap or cosmetics. Dika nuts may also be crushed and used to thicken stews, soups, flavor food, or make a thick, cake-like bread.
Weight Management Research
The African mango has gained popularity in recent years as a dietary supplement and weight-loss aid. While the fruit is certainly nutritious and an excellent source of fiber, the medical and weight-loss benefits of the African mango show little substantiation. Ngondi, et al. report in the journal, “Lipids in Health and Disease,” in both 2005 and 2009 that “I. gabonesis” seed extract can significantly decrease body weight and improve metabolic indicators in overweight and obese patients compared to placebo control (1, 2).
A parallel clinical trial of Ngondi’s 2005 study by Oben et al. in 2008 was performed in the same region, published in the same journal, and reports similar findings of “I. gabonesis’” dietary efficacy (3). Nevertheless, Onakpoya, et al. refutes these claims in a systematic review that assesses the evidence put forth in these three studies (4). Onakpoya, et al. concludes that the variety in study methodology, small sample sizes, dosage variation, lack of detailed reporting, and lack of publication diversity limits the interpretation of their results. Additionally, funding of the 2005 Ngondi paper was partially sponsored by a company with a vested interest, which provided the IGOB131 seed extract compound used in the study (1). This conflict of interest could have impacted the interpretation of the results.
In summary, the African mango has multi-faceted benefits and can be a nourishing part of a healthy diet. However, more extensive and better research needs to be conducted to evaluate the African mango’s medicinal and therapeutic use.
1. Ngondi JL, Etoundi BC, Nyangono CB, Mdofung CMF, Oben JE. 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. 2009; 8:7.
2. Ngondi JL, Oben JE, Minka SR. The effect of Irvingia gabonensis seeds on body weight and blood lipids of obese subjects in Cameroon. Lipids Health Dis. 2005; 4:12.
3. Oben JE, Ngondi JL, Momo CN, Agbor GA, Sobgui CSM. The use of a Cissus quadrangularis/Irvingia gabonensis combination in the management of weight loss: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Lipids Health Dis. 2008; 7:12.
4. Onakpoya, I, Davies, L, Posadzki, P, Ernst, E. The Efficacy of Irvingia Gabonensis Supplementation in the Management of Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Diet Suppl. 2013; 10:1.
5. Irvingia gabonensis – Wikipedia.org