Can Irvingia Help With Weight Loss?

Q Is the African Mango seed effective for long term weight loss? I have diabetes—any special precautions? Do you have any suggestions?

MIKE, Sherman Oaks, CA

A Also know as Irvingia gabonensis or dikanut, there is some interesting research out of Cameroon, Africa where this purported high antioxidant,1 antimicrobial2 plant is grown. Traditionally, Irvingia has been used for analgesic (pain relief) purposes in African countries. Early investigations indicate that it might be of value in diabetes for normalizing blood sugar when administered as a viscous preparation. However, no rigorous studies have been done.

For obesity, the first report was published in 2005. In a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized study conducted at the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon, researchers gave Irvingia seeds or placebo to 40 subjects (mean age 42.4 years) with 28 subjects receiving Irvingia (1.05 g three time a day for one month) while 12 received placebo.3 Subjects were maintained on a normal caloric diet and evaluated weekly. At the end of the study, the mean body weight of the Irvingia group was decreased by 5.26% and that of the placebo group by 1.32%, the difference being significant. In subjects who were obese and had taken Irvingia, a significant decrease of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, and an increase of HDL-cholesterol was reported.

Another study on the antiobesity properties of Irvingia was published three years later.4 Performed by essentially the same researchers at the same university in Cameroon, a combination consisting of Irvingia and Cissus quadrangularis (a perennial plant of the grape family, aka Veldt Grape or Devil’s Backbone) was given to one 24-subject arm, or just Cissus to another 24-subject arm, or placebo to a third 24-subject arm. Compared to the placebo group, the two active groups showed a statistically significant difference on all six variables by week 10. Although the Cissus-only group showed significant reductions on all variables compared to the placebo group, the Cissus quadrangularis/Irvingia gabonensis combination resulted in even larger reductions (body weight, body fat, waist size; total plasma cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and fasting blood glucose level).

An interesting cell-line study followed in which Irvingia was found to inhibit fat formation while increasing adiponectin.5 This too was conducted at the same university by the same researchers. Then, last year another study appeared in the same journal, finding for an extract of Irvingia (IGOB131).6 This was given twice daily in the amount of 150 mg to 51 overweight or obese volunteers. Placebo was given to an equal number. After 10 weeks, significant improvements in body weight, body fat, and waist circumference as well as plasma total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood glucose, C-reactive protein, adiponectin and leptin levels were observed in the IGOB131 group compared with the placebo group. Adiponectin levels increased by 159.8% in the experimental group vs. only 23.4% in the placebo group.

All to the good, it seems on the surface. However, there are several forums reporting on Irvingia for weight loss on the web (see http://www.imminst.org/ and http://www.mindandmuscle.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=35892), and none have offered many positive findings. Plus there have been lots of negative ones. The initial purveyor of this material also has a forum which first reported similarly to those cited above, but now much of that material has been shelved or appears to be filtered. The above studies should be looked at as highly suspect. The following was largely taken from http://www.imminst.org/ (the facts have been verified):

Both of the “double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized” studies were conducted by Julius Oben, which should raise huge red flags. Oben was the researcher behind a study in 2007 showing that Cissus was effective as a fat loss aid. Moreover, Oben is actually employed at Gateway Health Alliances, Inc., which supplied all the testing materials and probably funded all of these studies. Gateway hired Oben as the “Chief Scientific Officer” (see www.naymz.com/julius_oben_1413447). This doesn’t look good for impartiality. Furthermore, Oben holds a patent on Cissus as a weight loss aid (see patent number 7,175,859 at http://www.uspto.gov/). Oben is listed as the inventor and Gateway Health Alliances as assignee. Oben and Gateway Health Alliances have been working together since as early as 2000. The same pattern is true for Irvingia (see patent number 7,537,790).

In 2006, Oben published a similar study “The use of a Cissus quadrangularis formulation in the management of weight loss and metabolic syndrome.” In that study, he used a different product from Gateway Health Alliances called Cylaris.™ It was a mixture of several ingredients including Cissus. Of course, it had amazing results, results that Gateway Health Alliances relies on heavily in their marketing: http://www.cylarisweightloss.com/ and other uses elsewhere on the web.

Of course, none of this means that Oben’s research is necessarily bogus, but how do you explain why an American corporation is having an obscure university in a poor West African country do all the research on their products, while simultaneously employing the lead researcher? This smells fishy.

Furthermore, how reputable is Lipids in Health and Disease, the journal that these studies were published in an online journal described as “peer reviewed.” Lipids in Health and Disease is highly circumspect due to its anonymous, on-line submission of potential peer reviewers, the significant processing fee, and the relatively short time (i.e., 50 days) between submission and publication. These are things to think about. By the way, no long term human studies have been done with Irvingia.

  1. Agbor GA, Oben JE, Ngogang JY, Xinxing C, Vinson JA. Antioxidant capacity of some herbs/spices from Cameroon: a comparative study of two methods. J Agric Food Chem 2005 Aug 24;53(17):6819-24.
  2. Kuete V, Wabo GF, Ngameni B, Mbaveng AT, Metuno R, Etoa FX, Ngadjui BT, Beng VP, Meyer JJ, Lall Antimicrobial activity of the methanolic extract, fractions and compounds from the stem bark of Irvingia gabonensis (Ixonanthaceae). J Ethnopharmacol 2007 Oct 8;114(1):54-60.
  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 May 25;4:12.
  4. Oben JE, Ngondi JL, Momo CN, Agbor GA, Sobgui CS. 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 Mar 31;7:12.
  5. Oben JE, Ngondi JL, Blum K. Inhibition of Irvingia gabonensis seed extract (OB131) on adipogenesis as mediated via down regulation of the PPARgamma and leptin genes and up-regulation of the adiponectin gene. Lipids Health Dis 2008 Nov 13;7:44.
  6. Ngondi JL, Etoundi BC, Nyangono CB, Mbofung CM, Oben JE.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 Mar 2;8:7.

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