African Mango (Seed Extract) Supplements for Weight Loss Review Article
Initial Posting: 1/12/2012
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What It Is:
African mango (Irvingia gabonensis or sweet bush mango) is a tree native to West Africa. It produces a fruit which is similar in appearance but unrelated to mango (Mangifera indica). Both the fruit and seed of African mango are used as foods or ingredients in foods. In recent years, extracts from the seed have been popularized as an ingredient in weight loss supplements.
What It Contains:
The African mango seed is high in fiber, fat and protein. Oil from the seed contains vitamin A, beta-carotene and phytosterols.
What It Does:
The current use of extracts of the seeds for weight loss in the United States do not reflect traditional use of the seeds.
Current Use — The Evidence:
A single test tube (in vitro) study indicated that African mango seed may interfere with the development of fat cells.2 Three preliminary human studies suggest African mango seed extracts may be useful in reducing weight and improving cholesterol levels. However, these studies were all short-term (4 to 10 weeks) performed by the same research group in the African country of Cameroon and funded by the ingredient supplier and patent holder. Studies by other groups have not been reported.
The first study found that taking 3.15 g daily of a crude extract of African mango seed reduced body weight, waist circumference, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raised HDL cholesterol, in a group of obese adults on a low-fat, low-calorie diet (1,800 Kcal), while those taking placebo did not lose weight.3 The researchers noted that the soluble fiber in African mango seed extract may help account for the cholesterol-lowering effect.
The second study found that a specific African mango seed extract (IGOB131) reduced body weight, body fat, and waist circumference as well as lowered total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose in overweight adults.4 Those taking 300 mg of this specific African mango extract were found to consume significantly fewer calories each day than those in the placebo group, with mean intakes of 2,767 kcal and 3,156 kcal, respectively. There was little weight loss among those taking placebo.
The third study, using a combination of the IGOB131 African mango seed extract and a veldt-grape (Cissus quadrangularis) extract found significant reductions in body weight, body fat, waist size, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and fasting blood glucose in overweight and obese adults compared to those who received placebo.5
Dr. Tanya Edwards, Medical Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, has reported in a blog post on the Dr. Oz website in May 2011 that, among patients who have used an African mango seed supplement, "The results have been slightly underwhelming. A few patients lost a few pounds, but it has not been the magic bullet I had hoped for." She reports using the supplement herself at a half—dose (150 mg per day) and losing 7 pounds in the first month but, "...with continued use, I have not lost any more weight."
Manufacturers' recommendations on African mango seed products vary, as do the concentrations of African mango seed extract. The first study detailed above used 1.05 g three times daily (30 minutes before a meal) of a crude African mango seed extract.3 The second study mentioned above used 150 mg twice daily (30 to 60 minutes before lunch and dinner) of a specific African mango seed extract called IGOB131.4 The third study used 500 mg (250 mg twice daily) of the IGOB 131 African mango/veldt grape combination.5
The specific compounds (and amounts of those compounds) that represent authentic, high quality African mango seed extract have not yet been defined, though the IGOB131 material claims be standardized to 7% albumins (water soluble proteins).5 The active constituents have also not been defined. Currently, there is no way to analytically determine whether one product is authentic — let alone more effective.
Making matters worse, there are 7 genetically separate Irvingia species, any of which have seeds that could potentially be substituted to make an adulterated Irvingia gabonensis seed extract.6 One of the species, for example, is native to Southeast Asia, as opposed to West Africa. Many Chinese ingredient suppliers offer African mango extracts to U.S. supplement manufacturers that could, potentially, be made from the species found in SE Asia. In addition, many of these materials are made from the "fruit" or "bark" and not the "seed" of the plant. Products made of plant species other than Irvingia gabonsis, from plant parts other than the seed, or extracted differently than the ingredients tested clinically, may have different chemical profiles and different effects than the products used in studies.
How African Mango Seed Extract is Sold:
African mango seed extract is generally sold in capsules or as a powder. Life Extension sells Integra-Lean Irvingia (150 mg) which apparently contains the same ingredient as the clinically tested IGOB131 licensed from Gateway Health Alliances (which sponsored the clinical study). It may be best to look for products that include this extract. Other "African mango seed" extracts are available, including some from China.
At some point in the future, when African mango seed has been better chemically characterized, ConsumerLab.com may test these products against quality standards.
African mango seed is generally considered to be safe as a food. However, little is known about the safety of African mango seed extract as a supplement when used for more than ten weeks at the dosages noted above. Side effects of African mango seed extract reported in human studies include abdominal gas, difficulty sleeping and headache. Some people report a "stimulant" feeling.
Current usage of African mango seed extract as a supplement for weight loss does not reflect traditional usage of the seed. Limited, short-term, human trial evidence suggests that African mango seed may be useful for weight loss and lowering cholesterol in overweight or obese adults, however more studies are needed.
Until more is known, it seems generally safe to use African mango seed for one or two months. The composition of African mango seed products on the market may vary significantly due to a lack of standards, and an optimal serving size for specific benefits has not been well established. At a minimum, be sure supplements list extracts made from the correct plant (Irvingia gabonensis) and the correct part of the plant, i.e., the seed -- not the fruit or bark.
Photo by Stefan Porembski in West African Plants — A Photo Guide, Edited by in Brunken, et al, 2008, Forschunginstitute Senkenberg, Franfurt/Main, Germany.
2 Ngondi JL, Mbouobda HD, Etarne S, Oben J. Effect of Irvingia gabonensis kernel oil on blood and liver lipids on lean and overweight rats. J Food Technol 2005;3:592-94.
3 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.
4 Ngondi JL, Etoundi BC, Nyangono CB, et al. 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.
5 Oben JE, Ngondi JL, Momo CN, et al. 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
6 Kengni, et al, Irvingia gabonensis, Irvingia wombolu, bush mango. Conservation and Sustainable Use of Genetic Resources of Priority Food Tree Species in sub-Saharan Africa. Bioversity International, 2011.