Magic Mangos from Oz (Dr. Oz that is)
There must be magic in African Mango extract, if you believe all you see on the internet.
Of course, believing all you see on the internet is grounds for commitment to psychiatric treatment in some jurisdictions – or at least, it should be.
This is not the first weight loss “marvel” I have seen for sale on the internet. However, it is the first one that claims to be endorsed by Dr. Mehmet Oz.
I don’t personally know Dr. Oz, and hope he is not the type of person to accept a gob of money so people can put his name on their product.However, by securing the blessing of Dr. Oz, you are really getting an endorsement by Oprah Winfrey – who “discovered” and promoted him to launch his media career.
Although Dr. Oz is a handsome young man — thin and photogenic — and has a sympatico disposition. He is certainly highly educated and qualified to teach and practice his medical specialty (cardiothoracic surgeon). Yet he also promotes alternative methods of health – such as acupuncture and energy-based practices – for which the mainstream medical establishment has criticized him.
He also appears in surgical scrubs on his daily show, rather than a suit and tie like Dr. Phil. As far as I know, he hasn’t cut any audience members open on the air. He also is “spokesman and advisor” for the website RealAge. I’m not sure if that is just an endorsement or if he’s an investor in the company. Basically, you go to the web site and fill out a questionnaire about your lifestyle, health condition and such, and it tells you your biological age. What you may not know is that the information is sold to pharmaceutical companies as cheap marketing research. Most people would not give a pharmaceutical company such detailed information (especially free), but if it is on the web and has the friendly face of Dr. Oz attached, it is a successful way to gather data. Generally on his TV show, he gives out very bland mainstream information and advice. I actually watched his show once and was amazed how someone could get through that much time as a TV doctor without saying anything even the least controversial or risky. He once told a woman who belched a lot to “try a probiotic,” on a day I actually watched. No malpractice suit waiting in the wings for that one. So it is with a grain of salt that I consider his endorsement of the weight-loss wonders of African Mango extract.
The page features a video clip and a caption beneath it that says:
“Dr. Oz Recommends African Mango: On September 13, 2010, Oprah’s favorite doctor, Dr. Oz., called African Mango a “breakthrough supplement” and a “miracle in your medicine cabinet that can help you lose 10 pounds.”
I put aside my prejudices and decided to find out all I could about this African Mango extract.” Again – not my quotes. Those are from the web site.
Endorsements include a celebrity fitness guru (credentials unknown), an actual MD who is called a “lead researcher” but who is not specifically credited with researching this product, and Fox News – “Fair and Balanced” – who may not have actually researched and reported on the product, but may have only accepted money to run an advertisement on that network.
Here is a review of the study that allegedly “proved” the efficacy of the weight loss study. It is in delightfully broken English. Irvingia gabonensis is for sale in a lot of places. It’s only natural for a consumer to look for the cheapest source. But is the cheap stuff “real” or not?
The true African mango does not seem to be particularly common. The photos of it in various ads (and they are all over the internet, even if you are not looking for them) often show a kind of “Hollywood Halo” around it. That arouses my suspicions right there. But anytime there is a hot product on the market, expect fake African Mango to show up at a super-cheap price.
I can’t tell the difference between real and fake so I have no idea how you can. And that’s assuming that the “real” product is more effective than the fake stuff.
The only actual research that seems to be the biggie is available online. First, I will NOT put down the quality of the article based on its origin in Cameroon. These people are obviously seasoned researchers and know exactly what they are doing. I have never been to Cameroon and know only one thing about it. In my medical school (University of Amiens, Jules Verne, FRANCE) a fair amount of people did medical missionary work. A young woman for whom I had enormous respect went to Cameroon. She came back very frustrated, told me she had dished out a lot of antibiotics to people who went back to live in lean-tos and got infected again. She said the people were poor beyond her wildest imagination, and needed basic sanitation lots more than antibiotics. I doubt things have changed much.
Lots of people are looking at the ethnobotany of Cameroon, and its traditional plant medicine practitioners. Like the Dutch, for instance. Just search “ethnobotany Cameroon” and you come up with a lot of PDFs reviewing various regions of the country, mostly through native practitioners. But back to the crucial article. Obesity and overweight are problems globally, and seem to be in the city where the university is (Yaounde) and they found 120 people locally. Obviously, they were eating some kind of a Cameroon diet, whatever that is, but the analysis of it looks reasonable. Statistical analysis sounds as rigorous as anything we would do here; they got it reviewed by some American academic (Wake Forest U., very serious) and this looks like the real thing. I mean, tables and figures look good. I do not know if somebody was going for tenure, or anything about local biases. I always check who funded the research. I once lived in Fairfield, CA (I have lived pretty much everywhere in CA) but never heard of Gateway Health Alliances. So I have checked them out.
The clinical trial was registered with American Clinical Trials. The Lead investigator, Dr. Oben, seems to have alliances with both Gateway, and the University in Cameroon. He and his team have published a few other articles in the same journal.
This Irvinia stuff seems to work on the PPAR gamma gene, known to contribute to obesity in humans.
There is a Gateway Health Alliances referenced on the internet claiming to be a Virginia –based managed care company – “We manage health plans for business.” I don’t think they would be doing drug research and I don’t know if they are connected to the California company with a similar name. The Fairfield, CA company Gateway Health Alliance Inc is listed as 1 to 4 employees and annual sales of under $500,000.00 (which means it could be $1 or even less). They are listed as “Misc Ambulatory Health Care Svcs” – which usually means home health care and not drug research.It doesn’t sound like they are big enough or rich enough to do clinical trials. I am not sure what is going on, and someone seems not to want anybody to know. What I think is happening is that private funds are trying to patent a natural substance. To get an “extract” from it, like American drug companies do. To make money off the poor folks of Cameroon. I do not think these people are planning to plant large groves of Irvinia gabonensis in California — although they probably could. They could if something that worked on half of 102 Cameroonians — not just for weight loss, but also for some other parameters predictive of either obesity or vascular disease or such, like leptin and C-reactive protein — could work on us all. The investigators would, I think, be the first to admit that they studied people who were overweight, but who were also aged 50 or less and not actually sick, with heart disease or diabetes or anything that was most of the reasons many Americans want or need to lose weight.There could be something here that could really help people everywhere, including the U.S. (as Dr. Oz said) – Or there might not. Save your money for now. What you buy as Irvinia gabonensis may or may not be the real stuff, and may or may not work at all. Probably not. On the other hand, if you save money for when it is a prescription drug, I guess few if any folks will be able to afford it. On the other hand, mangoes are delicious fruits and you can enjoy them. Nobody — but nobody — has asked the question: does the common mango has any of these properties — even a little? Are there a lot of overweight or obese people in Colima, Mexico, where the mythology (I have not been there either) is that the mangoes hang low and you can pick them off the trees as you walk down the street? I sure can’t find anything on that one. People who put money into drug development are not open, which is not a good thing. I think if people eat a diet of basic foods, with little or none of the industrial additives, they will do better and be less obese. Life — and eating — go on.