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African Mango: What to Know About Irvingia Gabonensis

WebMD Expert Column

What Is It?

The Internet has been buzzing about the African mango supplement for weight loss.

Irvingia gabonensis (IG) is the Latin name of the tree grown in Central and West Africa that produces a fruit similar to a mango and nicknamed African mango, wild mango, dika nut, or bush mango. IG contains 50% fat, 26.4% total carbohydrates, 7.5% protein, and 14% fiber.

In areas where IG grows, its flesh is widely eaten. But it's the seed or nut (fresh or dried) that contain the supposedly powerful ingredients. Sold almost exclusively online, the seed extract comes in powder, liquid, and capsule supplements.

What Are the Claims?

According to certain web sites, the high-soluble fiber content of IG seed can melt away belly fat and trim waistlines. It's often combined with other ingredients such as green tea and marketed as a fat-burning supplement.

Taking the supplement 30-60 minutes before meals is said to reduce appetite, lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides, reduce fat cell growth, boost the breakdown of fats, and improve blood sugar control. There are also claims that it is highly effective at sequestering fat and cholesterol and ridding them from the body.

What Does the Research Show?

There are limited research studies on the health effects of IG extracts, and most of the studies have been sponsored by supplement makers. That's a red flag, says Marisa Moore, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly called the American Dietetic Association).

A few studies have shown that supplements containing IG extract can aid in weight loss, lower blood cholesterol levels, and improve diabetes control. Researchers suggest it is the high fiber content of the seed that competes with cholesterol and helps remove it.

In one study, people who took an IG extract, given twice daily, lost weight and had an improvement in metabolic conditions linked to insulin resistance.

Another study combined IG with another herbal preparation, Cissus quadrangularis, and resulted in weight loss. The combination of ingredients makes it hard to isolate the role of IG alone. The study's results could be due to the synergy with the other ingredient and/or the impact of a high-fat, high-fiber supplement on appetite.  

Bottom Line

More studies are needed before nutrition experts recommend the supplements. There is no such thing as a magic pill that will peel off the pounds. The IG extract is rich in fiber, much like the fiber in foods that can help fill you up to promote weight loss, lower blood cholesterol, and maintain blood sugar levels.

Instead of relying on supplements, proper diet and exercise are tried and true methods to losing weight and achieving better overall health, Moore says.

If you do choose to buy supplements, choose pure IG extract supplements that have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) seal that ensures product quality. Blends, combinations, and proprietary mixtures are unlikely to contain an adequate amount of IG to provide health benefits.

Consult your health care provider before taking African mango supplements or any other supplements. Your health care provider needs a complete record of everything you're taking, in order to watch out for any reactions.

Edited on January 29, 2012

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