Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the Microbiome and…(ahhhh!) Mango

My regular readers know that I am always on the lookout for “things you can do now,” and that I get very excited when I find something that actually makes sense, even if it’s not entirely proven or the mechanism of action fully understood.  Yesterday, I came across research out of the University of Texas looking at the effects of eating mango on inflammatory bowel disease.[i]

Besides, it is one of my all-time favorite foods, so it’s a pleasure to wax lyrical on the delight that is a ripe mango.

Believe it or not, something as simple as eating 200-400 grams (approximately 7-14 ounces) per day of mango appears to make a measurable difference in alleviating  the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These researchers conducted a small pilot study on 10 volunteers (3 with Crohn’s disease and 7 with ulcerative colitis, all currently on drugs for their illnesses) with mild to moderate IBD, and had them eat mango daily for 8 weeks.

Their justification for the research: mango contains polyphenols, natural plant compounds that act as antioxidants, and have been shown in many studies to protect against cancer and other diseases.  Some of the polyphenols you may be familiar with include flavonoids and phenolic acids.  Their presence is one of the reasons a plant-based diet is so healthy.  Previous studies have shown that mango polyphenols “…possess anti-inflammatory, anti-obesogenic [obesity] and anti-cancer activities, indicating their potential in modulating risk factors for intestinal disease.”  In animal studies, in which colitis has been chemically induced in rodents, a mango-based beverage attenuated inflammation.

Results of this study:

  1. Scores of an assessment of disease activity (bowel frequency, stool consistency, abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, etc.) improved: “…findings in this study indicated that 8 weeks of mango intake exert beneficial effects in slowing the progression and reducing the severity of IBD…”
  2. Levels of blood inflammatory markers associated with IBD significantly improved.
  3. Stool analysis showed marked improvement in the quality of the bacterial microbiome, with significant increases in Lactobacillus species, including plantarum, reuteri and lactis.  These species “…are known to possess anti-inflammatory activity in the treatment of colitis by down-regulating the secretion of TNF…and up-regulating IL-10.”  (TNF-alpha is a major player in the pro-inflammatory system; IL-10, as I have talked about many times on this blog, is a major player in the regulatory system, which turns off the inflammatory response when no longer needed.)
  4. The short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, significantly increased. This SCFA is associated with improved intestinal barrier function (i.e. improved leaky gut).
  5. One phenomena was noted, unrelated to IBD: “…daily mango intake seemed to have been associated with a slightly decreased calorie and fat intake.”  Now this may not seem all that interesting…except that it’s not the first time this has been noted in a study.  Several studies have shown the same, including one that noted a decreased trend in caloric intake in obese people.

Obviously, this was a tiny study (it was only a proof-of-concept, after all), so the results should be interpreted with caution. Still, it is nice to report some good news. I don’t have IBD, but what the hell?!  It’s not like you have to twist my arm to convince me to eat my mango daily.


[i] H. Kim, V.P. Venancio, C. Fang, et al., Mango (Mangifera indica

L.) polyphenols reduce IL-8, GRO, and GM-SCF plasma levels and increase Lactobacillus species in a pilot study in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, Nutrition Research(2020),

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