Purple Mangosteen is a tropical fruit native to South East Asia that has in recent times become the basis for a new weight loss supplement.
Before it took up this extra role, the purple fruit often called the “queen of fruits” for its sweet flavour was enjoyed like any other fruit and used as a traditional medicine for treating diarrhoea, skin infections among other ailments.
The fruit is a rarity outside parts of Asia where its grown. As a result, to the rest of the world it’s more popular as a supplement than a fresh fruit. Its rather pricey supplement is sold in the form of a “health drink”, powder or capsule.
As far as its weight loss claims go, by far the most interesting I have come across is that it “will melt up to 10 kg of fat in 2 weeks!”.
While it’s highly improbable that it melts anything, we set out to investigate whether it aids in weight loss. Here’s what we found out.
Health and Medicinal Properties of Purple Mangosteen
|Purple Mangosteen Fruits|
Currently there is little literature available that is conclusive regarding the health and medicinal benefits of Purple mangosteen. However, those that exist all agree on one thing: it’s a rich source of Xanthones that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 1
Other studies have also suggested that the Xanthones possess anti-cancer, anti-allergic, anti-microbial, and anti-malarial properties. 2
These Xanthones are however mostly concentrated in the inedible purple pericarp (peel) of the fruit. It’s this part that has been used for traditional medicine explaining the fruits medicinal properties.
The edible white interior pulp of the fruit is however not as impressive nutritionally with its micro-nutrients falling below 5% of the average daily amount considered adequate to meet the needs of most healthy people. (i.e. Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)) 3
Another study concludes that Mangosteen extracts could be beneficial in the treatment of insulin resistance. 4
Mangosteen Weight Loss Properties
One study found that a herbal blend containing extracts of a flower called Sphaeranthus indicus (East Indian Globe Thistle) and Mangosteen contributed to weight loss in participants that took the blend compared to those that did not. 5
The study subjects however had to walk 30 minutes 5 days per week during the duration of the study.
A different study using a similar blend but under the brand name Meratrim came to a same conclusion. 6
However, it’s worthy that both studies were funded by nutraceutical companies that produce and sell these supplements.
Another study done on a proprietary mangosteen juice blend called Xango Juice suggests that this product may assist in weight loss however notes that further investigation is needed to confirm this. 7
This study was also sponsored by the company behind the juice i.e. XanGo LLC.
Investigating the Weight Loss Claim
The various Mangosteen supplements out there capitalize on its Xanthones content to back its weight loss inducing power.
This is in addition to claiming it reduces the risk of various lifestyle dieseases such heart attack, diabetes and hypertension though some go as far as to mention that the product could cure some cancers.
To quote the sellers of these Mangosteen supplements, apparently it achieves weight loss as it:
“Effectively degrades FAT due to fruit alpha-acid Mangosteen” and “Reduces appetite”
According to them, these alpha-acids breakdown fat once absorbed in the blood.
“…alpha-acids of Mangosteen are absorbed in the blood and harmlessly break down fat in only couple of minutes!”
These so called aplha-acids are in reference to alpha-mangostin which are the most abundant xanthones in the mangosteen pericarp along with gamma-mangostin. 2
Therefore, for the supplements to have any of the suggested health benefits of the Mangosteen fruit it’s necessary that they contain a significant amount of Xanthone extracts from the fruits pericarp.
Now here’s the problem: as is stands, it’s a fair assumption to make that a significant proportion of the content of Mangosteen juices and concentrates comes from the flesh of the fruit.
Additionally, the juices and concentrates are usually blended with other fruits such as blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry and grape to improve the antioxidant activity of the supplement. 3
However, antioxidants on their own have no direct influence on weight loss. The effect is only indirect as foods rich in antioxidants tend to be low in calories i.e. vegetable and fruits.
Thus, while the antioxidants in Mangosteen supplements may provide some health benefits, cutting weight is hardly one of them.
Further, in the two studies that observed weight loss in the participants, Mangosteen was not the only “active” ingredient as is the case with most Mangosteen supplements.
It’s should also be noted that the few studies that support this weight loss claim all seem to be funded by interested parties. While this doesn’t take away from their evidence, it’s good to note that these studies are carried out over short periods and under controlled conditions which consumers may not follow through in the real world. e.g. exercising daily
Case in point is that the supplements are marketed as “magic pills” that bring about weight loss on their own. Hardly is there any mention of there being a need to adopt appropriate lifestyle changes that can foster weight loss in the long term.
Consequently, while small decreases in weight may be witnessed in the short term (as in the studies), poor weight management outcomes are to be expected in the long term due to the unfavourable lifestyle habits that persist.
Studies carried out with larger varied sample sizes and over longer periods are thus needed to establish whether Mangosteen extracts do actually aid in weight loss.
With regards to its other supposed health benefits, a 2013 study admits of there being insufficient evidence to support these claims. 8
“… there is insufficient scientific evidence at this time to support the use of mangosteen containing supplements as enhancers of health and useful adjuvants for treatment of various pathophysiological illnesses.”
Losing Weight the Expensive Way
Diet fads come and go as do diet pills. The one thing that’s common amongst them all is their fantastical claims of inducing weight loss over short periods and with minimal effort.
Despite the long line of failures from these kind of products, their market keeps flourishing with new formulations that promise even better results; better, for the rise in lifestyle diseases and their link to obesity makes weight loss a fertile ground upon which more unfounded health claims can be planted to reap maximal profits.
In spite of its potential benefits, Purple Mangosteen finds itself in a similar position. It’s high proportion of Xanthones in its pericarp is behind its crowning as a “super fruit” and the basis for its exaggerated health benefits and weight cutting efficacy.
This factor combined with the fact that the fruit is a novelty outside South East Asia not only makes the other regions where it’s not grown susceptible to its supposed health claims but also affords its sellers steep prices for their suspect formulations.
The various brands of Mangosteen supplements average prices of $30 to $50 for 114g/150g packets and this are apparently discounted prices.
To compound matters, midst the success of these supplements, counterfeits that carry with them none of the supposed health benefits are present in the market.
Losing Weight the Healthy Way
Quick results with weight loss almost always come with a high cost, and not merely to the pockets but often at times to even one’s health.
It’s therefore a far wiser decision to invest one’s money and time in adopting a healthy lifestyle than expecting one substance, in this case purple mangosteen, to magically deliver numerous health benefits in a few expensive gulps.
We however recognize that weight loss can be a frustrating experience for some and its merely out of desperation that many turn to solutions that promise quick results.
A far much healthier way to lose weight is to adopt long term solutions.
This healthy route may mean spending more time losing weight however it’s safe and it’s easier to retain the formed healthy habits for the rest of one’s lifetime not to mention pass it on to one’s children.
As the first step, we always advocate one adopt a healthy diet and adequate physical activity levels through regular exercise.
A healthy diet would comprise of complex carbohydrates (e.g. whole-grains), plenty of greens, lean protein primarily from pulses and white meat. You can use the healthy eating plate as a simple guide to get you started on the types of foods to incorporate and their average quantities.
For a more personalized care plan, we recommend seeing a registered nutritionist or dietitian that can formulate a diet plan for you as well as advise you on other lifestyle changes you can incorporate into your weight-loss journey.
In the long run, this is a better and far cheaper investment to buying weight-loss supplements.
6. Kudiganti, V.; Kodur, R.R.; Kodur, S.R.; Halemane, M.; Deep, D.K. Efficacy and tolerability of meratrim for weight management: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy overweight human subjects.