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Irvingia gabonensis may sound like a terrible disease, but it’s actually a tree native to West Africa. While the fruit is used for food (it’s similar to a mango), the seeds are used to make medicine, including supplements. The belief is that the seed extracts may lower cholesterol because of their high fiber content (fiber increases removal of cholesterol from the body). The research that’s been done so far focuses solely on using Irvingia gabonensis to reduce bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels in people who are obese. Should you take this supplement? Experts on the Cleveland Clinic Prescriptive Wellness Committee weigh in on the pros and cons:
On the Pro Side: Preliminary studies certainly suggest that Irvingia gabonensis may be beneficial for obese people with high cholesterol, according to Michael F. Roizen, MD, the Cleveland Clinic’s chief wellness officer. In a study conducted over a 10-week period, people taking this product experienced almost a 50 percent increase in good cholesterol with a 50 percent decrease in inflammatory C-reactive protein — which means reduced risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In those same 10 weeks, people saw a 10 percent decrease in weight and waist measurements. The explanation is that the insoluble fiber in the fruit has properties that affect the hormones leptin and adiponectin, resulting in weight loss.
Kenneth Blum, PhD, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, an independent scientist associated with the 2009 report, viewed and analyzed the original data and is confident of the results.
On the Con Side: Other committee members point out that the researcher who conducted the studies is the chief scientific officer of the company selling the product and that this conflict of interest may bias the study. They feel the product needs to be tested by an independent research group. Besides that, some doctors challenge the fact that the biologically active ingredients and the mechanisms for achieving the results are not known. They’re skeptical about the ability of a supplement to produce such huge improvements.
Committee Conclusion: Experts on the Cleveland Clinic Prescriptive Wellness Committee recommend proceeding slowly when it comes to Irvingia gabonensis. Although the product doesn’t seem risky and preliminary studies suggest benefits, the doctors say that future trials are needed before they can feel confident making a stronger recommendation.
They also point out that weight loss is best brought about through healthy lifestyle changes in eating and activity patterns. If you’re going to try this supplement, the proper dosage is 150 mg 30 to 60 minutes before lunch and dinner. Be sure to consult your doctor and proceed carefully.
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