African mango - weight loss wonder fruit?

One of the hottest new products on the slimming pill market is the African mango, a wild fruit which is claimed to cause significant weight loss and improve blood fat levels.

Thanks to the exponential increase in worldwide overweight and obesity, both bona fide researchers and manufacturers of slimming supplements are frantically searching for a magic bullet to cure this ever growing adiposity (obesity). Not a week goes by that I am not asked to comment on a new wonder slimming pill or surefire weight loss diet that has been launched in South Africa.

A quick buck

The slimming pill and diet market is after all worth billions of dollars and anyone who can come up with a product that does promote dramatic weight loss, is destined to become an instant millionaire. On the other hand, serious researchers are also trying to identify methods of promoting and sustaining safe weight loss to prevent the many consequences of obesity that have such negative effects on health, psychological and social factors, and the economy in terms of the cost of treating obesity-related diseases.

African mango

One of the hottest products on the slimming pill market at present is African mango or Irvingia gabonensis. For once, the claims that African mango can cause significant weight loss and even improve blood fat levels, are being supported by some scientific studies. Although this research is still in its infancy, two studies conducted by Judith Ngondi and her co-workers from the University of Yaounde in Cameroon (2005; 2009), have produced some promising results.

It is important to understand that African mango or Irvingia gabonensis differs from the mangoes sold in our supermarkets. South African mangoes belong to the family Mangifera and at present there is no data available that an extract of the standard mango seed has the same effects as the extract of the African mango seed. This may be something worth investigating.

Two African studies

In their first study, Ngondi and her team (2005), evaluated the effects of an extract of Irvingia gabonensis seeds on obesity and blood fat levels. Forty obese Cameroonian subjects with a BMI exceeding 25 and an average age of 42 years, were randomly divided into two groups. One group of 28 subjects received 3 x 350 mg capsules of the African mango seed extract 3 times a day half an hour before meals (the total intake of the African mango seed extract was 3.15 g per day). The control group of 12 subjects received the same doses of placebo tablets containing oat bran. All the subjects ate the same so-called normocaloric diet (i.e. the energy content of the diet was not reduced and was, therefore, not held responsible for any weight changes). The treatment lasted for four weeks.

The results of this first study showed that on average, the treatment group lost approximately 5.3% of their body weight, while the control group only lost 1.3%, which represents a significant difference in weight loss between the two groups.  At the same time the treatment group also exhibited highly significant reductions in their waist and hip circumference measurements compared to the control group.

Considerable reductions in total blood cholesterol (39.2%), triglycerides (44.9%) and “bad” LDL cholesterol (45.6%), were obtained in the treatment group. At the same time, “good” HDL cholesterol levels in the group receiving African mango, increased by 46.9%. The treatment group also experienced a significant reduction in blood glucose levels. No significant changes in blood fat or blood glucose levels were observed in the control group after the month long test period (Ngondi et al, 2005).

In 2009, Ngondi and her co-workers from the University of Yaounde in Cameroon, repeated their study with 102 healthy, overweight or obese volunteers using IGOB131, a novel seed extract of Irvingia gabonensis. The subjects were again divided into a treatment and a control group. Each subject received 150 mg of IGOB131 or placebo, 30-60 minutes before lunch or dinner for 10 weeks. Similar positive results were obtained with the IGOB131 seed extract and the treatment group lost more weight, had improved blood fat and glucose values, lower blood pressure, and other markers of the metabolic syndrome (e.g. lower leptin levels). The authors suggest that the extract of Irvingia gabonensis may be a useful tool in dealing with the emerging global epidemic of obesity, hyperlipidaemia, insulin resistance and associated diseases (Ngondi et al, 2009).

How does African mango work?

Ngondi and her team (2005), theorise that the seeds of the African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) contain soluble fibre that is similar to other water-soluble fibres (fibres found in oats and apples for example), and that it acts as a “bulk-forming” laxative. These fibres delay gastric emptying and therefore cause a slower and controlled absorption of glucose into the blood stream, which helps to control insulin levels and prevent insulin resistance.

On the other hand, soluble fibres also bind bile acids (acids excreted in bile or gall) in the gut and remove them via the stools. Consequently the body is forced to produce more bile acids from cholesterol which can lower cholesterol and other blood fats in the blood.

It would seem that the soluble fibre in the extract of African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) seeds, has similar effects to other common water-soluble fibres. It will remain to be seen if African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) has additional effects which make it unique as a weight reduction and lipid lowering product.

Current perspectives

Needless to say, many slimming pills are now available worldwide which contain African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) extract in various concentrations and combinations. The manufacturers of these slimming pills promise miraculous weight loss and many other benefits, which may, or may not, materialise.

A thoughtful scientific review of fat modifying supplements by Egras and co-workers published this year, concludes the following about African mango (Irvingia gabonensis):

“Although the current data looks encouraging, to date there is limited data on the use of Irvingia gabonensis in weight loss. It appears to be safe and well tolerated as the most common adverse effects are headache, flatulence, and difficulty sleeping. Due to the limited data, Irvingia gabonensis cannot be recommended at this time.” (Egras et al, 2011).

Hopefully, additional research will demonstrate that the extract of the African mango is a safe and useful slimming aid. My advice would be to wait until more research has been done and enough scientific data has been gathered that we can recommend African mango as a safe slimming aid.

But I am sure that most readers struggling with their weight, will throw caution to the winds and try African mango extract products, no matter what I advise!

Desperate slimmers should keep in mind the doses used by Ngondi et al (2005; 2009), when they purchase slimming products containing African mango. Don’t be duped by products that contain less than 150 mg of the extract per dose, because it is a well-known ploy that unscrupulous manufacturers sell watered down versions of products that can potentially aid weight loss, with Hoodia being a case in point.

Be careful of Irvingia gabonensis slimming pills which also contain all kinds of other herbal ingredients that have not been tested scientifically, because these other ingredients can be potentially harmful.

Also keep in mind that we don’t know yet if African mango or Irvingia gabonensis is really safe, if it produces sustainable weight loss, if the high fibre content does not interfere with the absorption of vital minerals and other nutrients, and if taking such high doses of fibre won’t damage your normal peristalsis (the movement of food along the digestive tract).

(Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, July 2011)         



(Egras AM et al (2011). An evidence-based review of fat modifying supplemental weight loss products. J Obesity, 2011; Ngondi JL et al (2005). The effect of Irvingia gabonensis seeds on body weight and blood lipids of obese subjects in Cameroon. Lipids Health Dis, Vol 4(12); Ngondi JL et al (2009). 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 randomised double-blind placebo controlled investigation. Lipids Health Dis, Vol 8:7)

Any questions? Ask DietDoc

Read more:

A-Z of pills and shakes
Hoodia diet craze analysed
Dietary fibre helps slimmers

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