I've been getting a lot of questions about African Mango, also called Irvingia gabonensis and whether this fruit can help people lose weight. African mango is similar to the mango's you've probably eaten at some point. No doubt, youve seen a lot of websites touting this fruit for obesity and weight loss. Few websites offer proof though. In this review, lets look at the clinical studies on African mango. On the web, you may also see African Mango called Bush Mango or Wild Mango. All names refer to its scientific name, Irvingia gabonensis. The extract of African mango that has been used in weight loss research is called IGOB131. This name is sometimes shortened to simply OB131. Keep this in mind as you read this review.
African Mango Weight Loss Research
Does African Mango help people lose weight? There is indeed research on Irvingia gabonensis. More precisely, there is research on an extract from the seeds of the African mango tree. The extract from the seeds is dubbed IGOB131. I am telling you this because if you try Irvingia gabonensis weight loss supplements, this is the ingredient that the research was conducted on.
Other African mango extracts may not have the same effect.
In one 4 long week study, published in 2005 in the Journal Lipids in Health and Disease, 40 overweight people were given either 3.15 grams (3500 mg) of Irvingia gabonensis or a comparable amount of oat bran 30 minutes before meals, in conjunction with a low fat diet. People ate about 1800 calories a day.
At the end of this 4 week study, those receiving Irvingia gabonensis lost about 5.6% of body weight vs. those in the placebo group, who lost about 1% of body weight.
Body fat did not change significantly in either group.
Body fat was measured using bioelectric impedance analysis, a method commonly used in health clubs. This method, while quick and easy to administer, is less accurate than other means like hydrostatic weighing, Bod Pod etc. The fact that they used this method, is a weakness of the study in my opinion.
Systolic blood pressure (the top blood pressure number) was reduced about 4 points after the 4 week study. This drop in systolic blood pressure could be simply due to the weight loss experienced as opposed to a direct effect of Irvingia gabonensis itself.
In a 10 week study, published in 2009 in the journal, Lipids in Health and Disease, 102 healthy overweight men and women were followed for 10 weeks. People were split into either a placebo group or a group that received 350 mg of Irvingia gabonensis.
The Irvingia gabonensis was supplied by Gateway Health Alliances Inc (Fairfield CA), a company that owns a US patent on IGOB131
In those receiving the Irvingia gabonensis extract, body weight, body fat and waist circumference had decreased more than in the placebo group.
Those getting IGOB131 lost 28 pounds vs. about 1 pound for those getting the placebo. Body fat was determined using bioelectric impedance analysis. This is a HUGE difference and honestly, I'm skeptical of it.
LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, blood glucose, and C reactive protein were also lower in those who received the Irvingia gabonensis extract.
The weight loss observed in the African Mango group could account for the the decreases in cholesterol, blood glucose and C reactive protein. These things do change when people lose weight. The soluble fiber in the extract may also had an effect on cholesterol levels.
Another study published in 2009 in Lipids in Health and Disease by the same researchers exposed mouse cells to IGOB131 and noted that the compound increased fat cell production of adiponectin. Research finds that adiponectin has anti inflammatory properties and that high levels of adiponectin appear to be correlated with a lower a lower risk of heart disease. This same study noted that IGOB131 inhibited fat cell development as well.
In a review of previous research, published in 2013, the authors noted that studies published on african mango all had problems with how they were conducted. Because of this, the authros state that Irvinga gabonensis “cannot be recommended as a weight loss aid. Future research in this area should be more rigorous and better reported.”
African Mango And Leptin
The 10 week long study published in 2009 also noted that the IGOB131 extract reduced levels of leptin. Leptin is a hormone made inside fat cells which plays a role in appetite. Basically this is what happens:
- When leptin levels rise, we stop eating
- When leptin levels fall, we get hungry
That's the easy answer. The amount of leptin we have is dependent on how much body fat we have. So, the more body fat, the higher the leptin levels. One problem however is that many overweight people (who make a lot of leptin) are insensitive to the leptin and it doesn't work to stop them from eating. In other words they are leptin resistant.
Because Irvingia gabonensis lowered leptin levels, some take this to mean that it helps weight loss. But, remember that as leptin levels decrease, we get hungry. I'm saying this because the decrease in leptin that was observed in the 10 week long 2009 study appear to be a result of IGOB131 reducing fat cell growth and differentiation. In other words, as fat cell growth slows, leptin levels might fall also.
If the African mango extract does reduce leptin levels, would a continued drop in leptin cause a rebound hunger in people, causing them to eat more? I don't know? The longest study so far has only lasted 10 weeks. The bottom line to all this talk about leptin is that leptin is not the only player in the game when it comes to obesity. If Irvingia gabonensis has any real effect on combating weight loss, its effects on leptin are probably not the answer.
Is African Mango Safe?
The company that holds the US patent on the African Mango extract IGOB131 has published a safety study showing in lab rats showing that the ingredient up to 2500 mg/kg for up to 90 days of use. The ingredient caused no genetic mutations. That is good.
How much is that in people? To convert from lab rat dose to people dosage, divide the rat dose by 6.2. If we do this, we get 2500 /6.2 = 403 mg per kilogram of body weight. Remember there are 2.2 kg in a pound, so divide your body weight (in pounds) by 2.2 and multiply that by 403 to find the maximum safe amount in you. Use less than this to be even more conservative.
African Mango Side Effects
While I feel in the majority of healthy people, African Mango food and supplements are likely safe, here are some things to consider if you are not “healthy.” This list is not complete
- Speak to your doctor first if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Don't take if you are allergic to mangos
- Common side effects reported include GI problems, headache, dry mouth and sleep problems.
- Stop taking African mango supplements at least 2 weeks before having surgery.
- If you take ANY medications, speak to your doctor /pharmacist first
- if you have ANY health problems, speak to your doctor first.
At least one case report exists of kidney failure after taking African mango supplements. This individual had high blood pressure and was taking medications. The person was taking 1000 mg of African mango per day for a couple of months. This report highlights the need to speak to qualified medical professionals when taking dietary supplements.
Things To Think About
1. It is important for people to remember that all of the positive research on African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) has used a specific extract called IGOB131. Consumers should look for the amount of IGOB131 on supplement labels. Much of the research is sponsored by a company that owns the patent on IGOB131.
2. Supplements containing whole African mango or other extracts of African mango may not have the same effects.
Even though the research to date should be considered preliminary, so far there are 2 human trials and and both of the studies indicate that some weight loss effect is occurring.
3. Obtaining good results is probably better if African mango is combined with a low fat / low calorie diet.
4. Don't be swayed by the amount of Irvingia gabonensis a supplement contains. Look instead for how much of the IGOB131 extract the product has. This is what the research uses.
5. No study to date has investigated if exercise speeds weight loss with African mango. In theory it should. Regardless, research does show that exercise, in conjunction with dieting, increases the percentages of weight that's lost as fat. Remember we don't just want weight loss. We want fat loss. Dieting alone can lead to significant muscle loss, which lowers metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.
6. Weight loss could account for the observed changes in total cholesterol and LDL and CRP. Some have attributed the effects of African Mango to its soluble fiber content but I think this may be premature. In other words, I'd like to see more studies done.
Does African Mango Work?
Everybody is different but the preliminary research is intriguing. I do wish there were better studies though. If Irvingia gabonensis extracts are going to work, it will probably take at least 4 weeks before people notice a decrease in weight. See the side effects section above before taking african mango supplements