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New Miracle Supplement from Africa?

September 22, 2010

The web is awash with stories about African Mango?  Is this the new weight loss miracle?

You know that I am going to call bullshit on this, so let’s just cut to the chase…

Dr. Oz has completed his first weight loss special of the new season.  Apparently Dr. Oz is interested in helping America lose weight, and I am totally behind this.

I hate to be the one person in North America who has a problem with Dr. Oz, but I just can’t get over any television doctor who wears scrubs on TV.  It is like they are playing doctors on TV, rather than really being doctors.  I understand that Dr. Oz actually does perform surgeries, but he doesn’t perform them on TV and he doesn’t need to wear scrubs.  The Doctors on ‘The Doctors’ do this too and it makes me so angry.  They are wearing costumes to give them the air of surgeons so they will appear smarter than they are.  Quit screwing with us!!!

This point aside, Dr. Oz is recommending African Mango as one of three supplements that you should take to promote weightloss.  (NOTE: I have not seen this episode, so I am patching together what I can from the internet.  I have seen this video here as well as several reports so I may have some details wrong.  I will try to correct these as I go.)

According to this website:

Deidre joined Dr Oz in this segment of the show for the Miracle In The Medicine Cabinet – 3 Daily Supplements to take daily as not to sabotage your“Just 10 Challenge”.

  • Vitamin #1. Vitamin B
  • Vitamin #2. African Mango – IRVINGIA GABONENSIS
  • Vitamin # 3. Multi Vitamins

I can’t stand statements like ‘Miracle in the Medicine Cabinet‘.  It gives people who are overweight the false belief that the solution to their weight problems is found in the medicine cabinet.  As I have said numerous times, one day it may be found there, but right now it isn’t, and a multivitamin certainly isn’t a miracle cure for weight gain.  There is a deeper problem here.  Not just the misinformation regarding whether there are drugs or supplements on the market that will help with weightloss, but more disturbing is the medical belief that this problem can be solved with pills.

I am a huge fan of pills, medicines and doctors and I rarely agree with people who criticize western medicine, but it seems to me that this is exactly the situation those people are complaining about.  I get that Dr. Oz is suggesting that these things will help you to lose weight, and they might, but the things that will really help you lose weight are eating better and exercising.  Everything else is probably window dressing.  In fact, there is scant evidence that Vitamin B has any effect on weightloss.

As for African Mango, also known as Irvingia gabonensis, there is actually clinical evidence as to the value of African Mango with respect to weightloss.  In fact, this study right here.  The research behind this supplement is actually well documented.  There have been 3 studies to measure the effectiveness of Irvingia gabonensis and they all turned out to show that taking Irvingia gabonensis supplements results in significant weight loss.

This must be what Dr. Oz is responding to.  This must be why he thinks it is one of the three most important pills you can take to aid in your weight loss.  The thing that caught my attention with respect to this diet pill is that the study was done at the University of Yayounde in Cameroon.  In fact, a quick search shows that all 3 studies were done by the same researchers at the same University.  The concern I have with this is massive.  Although I am not suggesting that the doctors were in any way acting with the intention to create false information, the possibility that their excitement over a local product having weight loss benefits is more than enough to make me skeptical of the results.   Most Irvingia gabonensis comes from Cameroon.

Still that is on my first pass, if you really want reasons to be skeptical, you can look at Tom Venuto’s excellent article on Irvingia gabonensis.  If he is right, and the head researchers do in fact own the production rights of this stuff, then the research findings may be a good starting point, but the findings themselves would have to be completely ignored until they are corroborated by independent research.  In fact, this is the case wether or not they own the production rights because all 3 studies were done by the same group, and as Tom Venuto points out, the results are a little too much to believe.

To the lay person, this 28-pound weight loss (12.8 kilos) looks incredible. To someone familiar with research methods and weight loss research, these results look IN-credible, meaning NOT credible. To the informed and discriminating, results like these do not send you running to the health food store, they raise red flags, prompt more questions and demand more and better-controlled research.

Actually, the results are so significant that this should catch anyone’s attention.

Fibre Pills:

The supplement made from Irvingia gabonensis is made from the seeds of the African Mango rather than the fruit.  Apparently these seeds have a high fibre content (14%).

The supplements from Irvingia gabonensis are apparently fibre supplements.  Fibre supplements have been clinically shown to help with weight loss (approximately 0.8 kg/week for 5 weeks-with a very low 1200 calorie per day diet as opposed to the 1.28 kg/week for 10 weeks with no change in diet claimed by the Irv. g studies).

According to this site, the value of fibre in weight loss is:

It all comes down to a chemical named propionic acid. Propionic acid, according to new research, lowers adipokines (bad) and inflammation while at the same time increasing leptin sensitivity (extra awesome). Leptin is Awesome. Restoring our sensitivity to Leptin is as crucial as restoring our insulin sensitivity. Leptin is what tells our brain how hungry we are and how much energy we are free to burn up. If we are low on leptin (or more often insensitive to its effects) then things go haywire in a big way. Well it turns out Propionic Acid does a damn good job of fixing this mess.

So where do we get Propionic Acid? Well it’s used as preservatives in foods or hair products. We also sweat a little bit out. But don’t go licking your  armpits just yet. Put down the shampoo also! As it turns out we can make our own Propionic Acid! Well with a  little help from our friends anyways, known as intestinal flora. The healthy bacteria in our gut can make a really good amount of this stuff. All they ask for is dietary fiber!

Dr. Oz claims that one of the reasons that Irvingia Gabonensis works for weight loss is that it increases the leptin in your bloodstream:

Dr. Oz explored alternative medicine on his TV show Monday, and one of the things he mentioned was Irvingia Gabonensis as a weight-loss supplement. Irvingia Gabonensis is made from the African mango tree, and has been shown to reduce appetite by increasing the amount of leptin in your bloodstream. Leptin is the chemical that is used to signal your brain that you are or are not hungry. Increased Leptin tells your brain that you’re not hungry, so if you can increase the Leptin without ingesting any calories, that could help you lose weight.


I am not sure why I am putting all of these studies into this report, except to suggest that African Mango is just a fibre supplement, as they really aren’t important.  People who don’t understand how science works think that they can read the results from a study or two and think that something is scientifically proven.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  That is magazine science.  Science is a body of knowledge that is built up slowly over time with study after study done by different people in different ways, each one hopefully improving on the past, solving problems that are identified by the peer review process.  Most doctors and scientists understand this, so that is why their opinions tend to be credible.

I am shocked to see that Dr. Oz isn’t doing the research on this product though.  Skip it.  Get as much fibre as you can in your food.  If you eat well you won’t need supplements, unless advised by your doctor.  Fibre is great for you, and it occurs naturally in all of the foods you should be eating.

Dr. Oz, please, what are you thinking when you recommend Irvingia gabonensis? Do you know of other research I do not?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    January 4, 2011 10:33 pm

    WOW!!! You should become a doctor or Nutritionist or researcher. Everybody is wrong except you.

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      January 4, 2011 10:55 pm

      I love the sarcasm. Not only is everybody not wrong, as referenced in the article, I am not the first one to identify most of these issues. Read for yourself and believe what you want.


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