Mangoes have been cultivated in South Asia for thousands of years, and they now find homes across many of the warmer regions of Earth.
They are the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and for good reason: they're delicious.
That is, with the notable exceptions of vitamin C and folate.
Mangoes also contain a range of polyphenols such as flavonoids, a group of compounds that has gained popularity in health food circles over recent years.
Mangoes and polyphenols
The potential health impact of polyphenols has proven a controversial topic; they are considered to have an antioxidant effect, but studies have shown that our guts break the majority of them down before they get a chance to have an effect on our body.
That said, sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With this in mind, a group of researchers from the University of California, Davis set out to see whether they could measure specific health benefits of consuming mango.
To this end, they recruited 24 healthy postmenopausal women and asked them to consume 330 grams of mango each day for 2 weeks. Specifically, they chose the honey mango because of its relatively high levels of polyphenols.
After the 2-week mango intervention, the participants returned to their standard diet for 13 days, avoiding mango.
In order to assess the bioactivity of mango, the researchers took measurements at various points throughout the trial, including heart rate and blood pressure.
The team also sampled blood and breath. By analyzing breath samples, it becomes possible to gain an understanding of gut health. This is due to the fact that they provide a snapshot of the gases produced during fermentation in the intestine.
Positive impact of mango
The scientists found that systolic blood pressure — that is, the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts — was significantly lower than the baseline reading 2 hours after consuming mango.
Pulse pressure — which is a measure of the force that the heart generates every time it contracts — was also significantly lower 2 hours after eating mango.
The breath test measured hydrogen and methane levels. Some participants had methane, some had hydrogen, others had neither, and others still had both. In this type of test, methane is considered a sign of poor gut health.
Of the 24 participants, one quarter produced methane at the start of the trial. Of these six people, half showed reduced methane output after consuming mango.
So, a study that used a small group of a specific cross-section of society seemed to show some benefits of eating mangoes in a study partially funded by the National Mango Board.
More work is needed to back these findings up. Until these results are corroborated, mango can still be safely enjoyed, with or without specific gut and cardiovascular health benefits.