The flesh of Irvingia gabonensis, or bush mango, has been consumed for centuries by west African natives such as Cameroonians and Nigerians, along with fresh or dried seeds that are commonly used in local cooking as flavourants and texturants.
It is the soluble fibre content of these seeds that is thought to promote satiety and which attracted the interest of Afriplex, which produced an extract that has shown similar effects in at least one peer-reviewed clinical trial.
Having guaranteed a sustainable supply from both wild harvesting and cultivation, Afriplex has begun marketing the ingredient to food, supplements and pharmaceutical manufacturers as a natural weight management option.
However before the company can market the ingredient in the European Union it requires novel foods approval, something the company sought to do in conjunction with potential European partners, and similarly in North America.
“We are negotiating with two big US food companies and are hoping we can walk the path toward GRAS (generally recognised as safe) status that is required before bush mango extracts can appear in foods there,” Afriplex marketing manager, Billy Smith, told NutraIngredients.com.
To gain such self-affirmed status typically takes between three and six months. EU Novel Foods approval can take longer, in some cases years, as approval must come from 27 member states.
Progess had also been made with international pharmaceutical players.
Smith wouldn’t reveal pricing details, but said Irvingia gabonensis extracts “were not cheap ingredients”.
Clinical data revealed satiety effects could be delivered at a range between 300mg and 3150mg per day, depending on the target population and the particular food or supplement matrix in question.
Further studies were looking into bush mango’s ability to benefit obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
In one 2005 study published in the Journal of Lipids in Health and Disease, 40 obese Cameroonians recorded decreases in body weight, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides over a 10-week period.
Other studies found LDL cholesterol levels fell by between 27 and 45 per cent.
Pregnant women were the only contra-indicated population sub-group, although headaches, flatulence and sleep difficulties were recorded among study and control groups in one study.
Weight management space
Bush mango will enter a similar space as another African fruit extract, hoodia gordonii, which suffered a blow in November last year when Unilever shelved its plans to incorporate it into weight loss foods, despite spending €20m on it.
But the ingredient remains on-market in many products, most notably on the US dietary supplements market.
Smith said the bush mango biological mechanism was different to hoodia as it didn’t suppress appetite, rather promoted satiety, by delaying the exit of food from the stomach via the presence of soluble fibre.
He agreed consumers may have a difficult time understanding how those two processes are different.
Afriplex is best known for antioxidant-laden baobab extracts that last year won EU novel foods approval and which grows primarily in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The main nutrients include vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, pectin and citric, malic and succinic acids, while the oil also contains the vitamins A, D and E.