Oklahoma State University

Department of Nutritional Sciences

NSCI research finds health benefits in mangos

While it may not get the publicity of some of the superfruits like blueberry and acai, the addition of mango to the diet may be part of a future solution for obesity and diabetes.

According to a recent animal study conducted by a research group lead by Edralin Lucas, an associate professor in Nutritional Sciences in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at Oklahoma State University, incorporating mango in the diet could aid in reducing body fat and controlling blood sugar.

“Mango contains many nutrients and other bioactive compounds that can provide various health benefits aside from what we investigated,” Lucas said.  “It is high in fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as other minerals and phytochemicals. In addition to the positive effects on body fat, blood lipids and glucose, it is not associated with serious side effects such as negative effects on bone that is linked with the use of rosiglitazone, a drug commonly used to lower blood sugar.”

Lucas, along with her co-investigators Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Brenda Smith, Stephen Clarke and Stanley Lightfoot conducted the project, which was funded by the National Mango Board, to determine the effectiveness of mango flesh in modulating blood glucose and lipid values in mice fed a high fat diet to induce obesity. 

Obesity and consumption of high fat diet are associated with the development of many chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Drugs such as rosiglitazone and fenofibrate are often prescribed to treat these diseases by lowering blood glucose and lipids.  However, these drugs often have side effects ranging from liver enlargement and fluid retention to heart failure and increased risk for bone fractures.

“Our findings demonstrate that mango flesh is a promising alternative that can be useful in reducing body fat and blood glucose,” Lucas said.

For their study, Lucas and her colleagues chose the Tommy Atkins variety of mango and the mango flesh was freeze-dried, ground into a powder and added to a standard mouse diet.  They formulated six diets with various additives including a regular mouse diet, which had 4% total calories from fat, and five high fat diets with 35% total calories from fat.  One diet was only high fat, while the other four high fat diets also contained 1% mango powder, 10% mango powder, fenofibrate or rosiglitazone. 

“We used the Tommy Atkins mango varie ty because it is one of the most commonly available to consumers in the U.S.,” Lucas said.

After adjusting the high fat diets to have similar carbohydrate, fiber, protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorous content, the team assigned eight mice to each of the six diets and allowed them to eat and drink at will for two months.

Following the two month period, Lucas and her team found no statistically significant differences in body weight among the mice, but the amount of body fat was varied according to the diets.  Both diets containing mango had comparable effects with those of rosiglitazone and fenofibrate in reducing body fat.  The mice consuming diets with mango or the two drugs had body fat levels similar to those mice eating the standard control diet.

In addition to the positive effects of mango on body fat, the mango-containing diets also exhibited glucose and cholesterol lowering properties.  In fact, the 1% mango diets have a similar or even a more pronounced effect in reducing blood glucose than the diet containing rosiglitazone.

The team also observed that mango affected several factors involved in fat metabolism.  Mango was shown to reduce the circulating level of the hormone leptin.  This hormone is produced by fat cells and its concentration in the blood is directly proportional to the body fat content. As body fat stores increase, the levels of leptin in the body also increase. Leptin also plays a key role in regulation of appetite and energy intake and expenditure. In this study, mice receiving the high fat diets containing mango had significantly lower levels of leptin than mice eating the high fat diet alone.

Lucas said human studies should be done to confirm their findings and further investigation should focus on understanding how and what components of mango are responsible for its effects on body fat, blood glucose and lipids.  However, she said the findings demonstrated that the addition of mango to the diet may help prevent metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions like obesity, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and high blood pressure that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“We will soon be conducting a human study to investigate whether the addition of mango to the diets of pre-diabetics will help them control their blood sugar and whether incorporation of mango into the diet of overweight people will help them reduce body fat,” Lucas said. “We are also investigating how mango reduces body fat and blood glucose.”

This study is among the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of mango pulp in modulating hyperglycemia and reducing body fat in response to a high fat diet.  Lucas said she hopes the findings will encourage people to make better food selections.

“We would like to see people try to make healthy food choices such as including many fruits and vegetables like mango in their diets,” she said.  “It would help prevent many chronic diseases including obesity and diabetes.”

“All photos © 2008 National Mango Board and used by permission of the National Mango Board. All rights reserved.”