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Mango magic

We have a deeply ingrained perception that “medicine” has to taste bad. The phrase “you’ve just got to take your medicine” is testimony to this. Equally, we tend to think that anything that tastes good can’t be good for us. Of course, these generalisations are not true as has been illustrated in a new study showing that the luscious tropical fruit, the mango, has two very positive health impacts.

Today, mangoes are widely loved for their taste but they do also have a rich history. Fossil evidence suggests that mangoes date back around 30 million years in north-east India, Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh. They have enjoyed a popularity in that region as is reflected in the legendary tale that Buddha was presented with the gift of a mango grove so he could rest in its shade. The rest of the world discovered mangoes when Buddhist monks took mango plants with them on voyages to eastern Asia in the 4th and 5th centuries BCE. Another 2000 years later, in the 15th century, Portuguese explorers discovered the fruit and took it to the rest of the world. Now it seems that this taste sensation has some healthy properties as well.

Researchers recently reported on the benefits of mango at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology conference in Boston.

According to the researchers, the first study examined the effects of daily mango consumption on obese people. The subjects consumed 10 grams of freeze-dried mango, equivalent to 100 grams of fresh mango, each day for 12 weeks. The results showed that blood sugar levels by the end of the study were significantly lower than at the beginning. An unfortunate finding was that women, but not men, had an increase in body mass index (BMI) during the course of the study. Increases in BMI are bad for conditions like diabetes but the actions on blood sugar deserve further study.

The other interesting study exposed healthy breast cells and cancerous breast cells to fresh mango. The finding was that mango caused a reduction in the inflammatory response in both types of cells. Human studies need to be done to establish if this effect translates from the laboratory to real-life scenarios.

It is probably the polyphenols in mango that are responsible for both of these effects. Until the further research is done, however, it adds another layer of piquancy to the mango-eating experience to think that the luscious fruits might be doing something good for you — beyond seducing your taste buds.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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