Mangosteen: A Tropical (and Tasty) Cancer Fighter
It seems like every few months, there’s a new “superfood” gaining recognition in the health-and-wellness world. Interestingly enough, these foods are often common parts of other international cuisines.
Take, for instance, mangosteen, the subject of an April 2013 article in the Journal of Natural Medicines. This certainly isn’t the first study to explore the health benefits of the fruit, but Americans’ interest in mangosteen has certainly accelerated in the last few years.
The fruit, scientifically known as Garcinia Mangostana, was discovered more than 400 years ago. Since its discovery, other cultures have used it as a natural remedy for infections, diarrhea and urinary disorders; now, we’re looking at it as a defense against cancer.
The Journal of Natural Medicines study gave the extract to mice with colon cancer. After exposure to the mangosteen, tumors shrunk by between 50 and 70 percent. Mice who received the mangosteen dose also lived longer than mice that didn’t get the treatment.
The antioxidants in mangosteen pulp are highly bioavailable, meaning it’s very easy for your body to reap their benefits. While there are several cancer-fighting compounds (known as xanthones) in the fruit, two are especially effective: alpha-mangostin and gamma-mangostin. These two compounds primarily act by stimulating activity of the body’s natural killer T-cells (NKTs).
Choosing a Mangosteen Extract
Unfortunately, mangosteens aren’t native to the United States, and they can’t be imported. (The Department of Agriculture cites their ability to harbor pests as the reason for the ban.)
That’s not to say that the only people who can reap its benefits are those who live in the tropical climates of Indonesia and Malaysia, where the plant usually grows. A quality mangosteen extract can carry the same benefits of the whole plant, and the supplements are easily (and legally) obtained in the states.
As with any nutritional supplement, it’s important to choose one of reputable quality. How do you know if a mangosteen product is worth taking?
- The active dose should be above 100 mg but below 200 mg. Doses below this level haven’t been correlated with significant health benefits; doses above this level pose a higher risk of toxicity.
- Mangosteen should be the first item on the ingredient list. (On edible products, ingredients are listed from most potent to least potent. If mangosteen isn’t the first item on the list, you’re paying for fillers and generic mixed juices.)
- It should be made from the entire fruit, not just the inner pulp. The majority of the nutrients come from the fruit’s skin.
- It should come from a nationally recognized manufacturer, and the brand shouldn’t be sold exclusively online. Even if you make the purchase from an Internet retailer, you should still be able to contact a company rep who will answer questions and handle returns, in case the product doesn’t work for you.
- It shouldn’t carry any medical claims, such as “will stop cancer growth.”
It’s also important to use the extract with caution. A Memorial Sloan Kettering study found that daily consumption over the course of a year increased levels of lactic acid in users’ blood; such a buildup can increase a person’s risk of complications like shock.
An oncology nutritionist can give you directions for safely incorporating mangosteen extract into your diet. Until you’re able to discuss the addition with a licensed professional, it may be smart to wait to make your purchase.
Mangosteen Smoothie Recipe
Experts recommend taking mangosteen in one-ounce doses, along with other nutrient-rich foods to aid absorption. The following smoothie is a simple, tasty way to incorporate it into your diet and enjoy its benefits:
- One ounce (two tablespoons) mangosteen extract
- One cup fruit juice (we recommend natural, no sugar added strawberry mango, but use whatever’s available)
- One eight-ounce container organic full-fat Greek yogurt (the fat is crucial in helping the body absorb the nutrients.)
- One small handful of kale or spinach
- Ice, to taste
Add all ingredients to blender and puree until smooth. Drink cold.
Have you ever tried mangosteen extract? Would you be open to trying it if your oncologist gave you the green light?