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Irvingia Gabonensis: Does African Mango Work for Weight Loss?

You’ve been working out for a while now and seen some good results. You start to finely tune in to your diet but after a while your progress slows down- that’s completely normal.

Naturally you’ll want to take it to the next level so you start to think about supplements, and rightly so- a great physique needs to be hit from all angles.

The problem is however that there are so many supplements out there that claim to have positive effects on weight loss and fat burning that its difficult to know where to start. That’s where we come in.

Here we look at one such supplement reported to help you lose fat- Irvingia gabonensis.

Read more to find out:

  • What is Irvingia gabonensis
  • Is it good for weight and fat loss?
  • Reported health benefits
  • Considerations: is it safe to use?
  • Side effects
  • The final word on Irvingia gabonensis

What is it?

‘I. gabonensis’ is a fruit that comes from an African tree- indigenous to the forest territories of West and Central Africa. It is often referred to as ‘African mango’ or ‘wild mango’, although it isn’t related to the common mangoes we’d find in our food markets over here. They are also often referred to as ‘dika nuts‘.

The fruit of the African mango tree is round and has a tough green skin that protects an orange colored, fleshy fruit. The pulp of the fruit is used widely as a food source in Africa and can be either sweet or bitter dependent on geographic origin and ripeness. As well as a juice, the fruit is often used to make jams and jelly.

Traditionally all parts of the I. gabonensis tree are used in some form or another- the bark of the tree for example is claimed to have antibiotic properties, and the seeds are used for their apparent medicinal effects.

Within the pulp of the dika nut itself lie the kernels– these are marketed widely for their use as thickening agents in stews and soups as well as a host of other products, and are ground down to make a number of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.


african-mango-weight-loss


Is it good for weight and fat loss?

If you’re looking for some confirmation that I. gabonensis will work for weight loss you might be disappointed. 

At present there really isn’t a lot of research out there to back up the many claims that African mango will help you with your fat loss goals – and the research that is out there is less than convincing.

One research paper published in the Journal of Lipids in Health and Disease [1] provided 40 obese participants with either 3.15g of I. gabonensis per day or an equivalent amount of oat bran- this is a decent amount as well!

What did they find?

After 4 weeks, body weight in those using I. gabonensis fell by just under 6% in comparison to 1% in the oat bran group. Brilliant!

So it works then?- well all is not as it seems. Here’s why-

  • All participants in the group were on restricted calories- around 1800kcal per day! This is definitely going to contribute to weight loss regardless of supplement use.
  • The fat loss was measured using body fat scales- this is by no means a reliable way of measuring and you’d be likely to find these in gyms not in lab conditions.
  • There was no significant difference in body fat in either group- this means that there was no evidence at all that I. gabonensis has an effect on fat loss.
  • The participants were all obese- it is likely that any intervention would result in weight loss.

african-mango-side-effects


Are there any health benefits?

Okay, so even if it doesn’t help with weight loss, are there any health benefits to taking it?

The dika nut kernels, or seeds, are high in soluble fiber as well as being rich in fat (51-72%) [2] and consists primarily of two saturated fatty acids- lauric acid and myristic acid. Due to its highly saturated fatty acid structure, African mango is similar to coconut oil in that it provides mostly medium chain triglycerides, or ‘MCTs’.

As it is high in fat, I. gabonensis provides a relatively low source of carbohydrate, protein and fiber, although it is good as source of overall amino acids [3], being particularly balanced in lysine, tryptophan and valine as well as many others- 18 in total.

The seed provides sources of iron, calcium, magnesium and phytate, whilst the fleshy fruit is a good source of vitamin C (10mg per 100g of product) as well as beta carotene [4]. All of these are essential to health.

Blood Glucose

Again in the Journal of Lipids in Health and Disease [1] results reported a 22.5% decrease in blood glucose in comparison to 5.3% in the placebo group. Whist this appears promising- and may well demonstrate some health benefits, as the group lost weight over the course of the study, it is difficult to assess whether blood sugar profiles were just a side effect of weight loss, not the supplement itself.


Key Points:

  • You’ll see dika nut extract as the ingredient ‘IGOB131’ on weight loss supplements
  • Due to such a high fat content, the calorie value of the dika nut is 683kcal per 100g 
  • Unfortunately as well as there being limited research on the links for Irvingia gabonensis working for fat loss, much of the available data is of low quality and confounded by possible competing interests (the studies were funded by companies that sell African mango products). 

Considerations: Is it safe?

All exotic fruits and vegetables must undergo a safety assessment prior to being marketed and sold for consumption. Currently, I. gabonensis is an unauthorized food according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as it has not undergone this process. 

What this means is that as a ‘novel’ food, I. gabonensis does not have a significant history of consumption where long-term health implications have been monitored. Additionally it may also mean that it is produced by a method that has not previously been used for food.

Currently there is no evidence that I. gabonensis supplements

  • Present no danger for the consumer – It’s still new, and partially untested, you don’t the full effects
  • Have a long term use of consumption – There’s no information of how African Mango supplements effect you long term
  • Mislead the consumer – There’s not enough studies out there to support the claims being made

These are just a few of the of the reasons why Global Organizations like the UK and EU have banned Irvingia Gabonensis in health supplements.

It is clear at this stage that with limited evidence on long-term risk, you need to think about whether there are better supplements available that have been safety tested and have stronger research behind them.

Clearly, at this stage children should avoid supplements containing IGOB131. You should also avoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Side Effects

It is important when looking to take any supplement that you are aware of the potential issues relating to health and long-term risk.

It makes sense to avoid it if you have a known allergy or sensitivity to it, and whilst I. gabonensis largely seems to be safe, some side effects may exist, including:

  • Small amounts of potentially toxic chemicals (such as cyanide) have been found in the seed of the fruit.
  • Indigestion, nausea, excess gas and headaches.
  • In rare cases may cause sleep disturbances.
  • Changes to blood sugar levels may occur- it is important if you are diabetic, or take other supplements or medication that may also affect your blood sugar, you closely monitor you blood sugar.
  • It is recommended that you avoid this product if you have a liver or gastrointestinal illness as symptoms may be worsened.

Does African Mango Work for Weight Loss?

Exercise and diet are key for weight or fat loss. Additionally there are some supplements that are useful too- but not all of them.

Currently, there is a limited amount of research available on Irvingia gabonensis, and the data which has been published is confounded with issues and inconclusive.

At this stage, whilst there may be some health benefits to its use- no research can confidently report that its use will assist you in achieving your weight or fat loss goals 

Additionally, as an FSA unauthorized food , it is unclear as to the long-term health risks of its use. There are a number of tests that have not been conducted on it and for that reason we suggest that you avoid it until more evidence has been collected.


References

  1. Ngondi et al. The effects of Irvingia gabonensis seeds on body weight and blood lipids of obese subjects in Cameroon. Lipids Health Dis. 2005: 25(4); 12
  2. Leakey et al. Domestication of Irvingia gabonensis: 4. Tree-to-tree variation in food-thickening properties and in fat and protein contents of dika nut. 2005. Food Chemistry 90 (2005) 365–378
  3. Sun J, Chen P. Ultra high-performance liquid chromatography with high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis of African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) seeds, extract, and related dietary supplements. J Agric Food Chem. (2012)
  4. Obioma U. Njoku, L. and J. Obeta Ugwuanyi. 1998. Nutritional and toxicological properties of Dika fat (Irvingia gabonensis). J. of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants 4(4):53-58


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