Mangosteen: Superfruit or Superfraud?

Can Mangosteen Really Help Improve Your Health?

Mangosteen, fruit flesh
Mangosteen, fruit flesh. Getty Images/Westend61

Mangosteen is a tree found in the Pacific islands, Asia and Africa whose fruit is said to have numerous health benefits — its promoters claim mangosteen (or supplements made from its fruit, rind and bark) can help curb arthritis pain and may even help you lose weight.

But is any of this true?

Some of the claims may have a seed of truth in them. But as with other "superfruits" and "superfoods," mangosteen's real benefits are likely quite a bit less than what's advertised and hyped.

Possible Health Benefits of Mangosteen

Mangosteen frequently is touted as a way to relieve the joint pain of arthritis. There is some medical evidence that daily consumption of mangosteen juice can lower levels of an inflammation marker called c-reactive protein, while at the same time increasing the activity of antioxidants in juice drinkers. Inflammation is a primary feature of arthritis. However, medical researchers haven't studied mangosteen juice in people with arthritis, and there's no direct evidence that mangosteen can alleviate arthritis pain.

There also have been studies looking at whether mangosteen can help you lose weight. The fruit showed a bit of success by preventing weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet. However, this approach hasn't been tried in people, and compounds that work in mice often don't translate well to humans. Researchers continue to investigate mangosteen as a weight-loss aid, but there's no real evidence yet that it's effective.

Various other health claims associated with mangosteen don't hold up under scrutiny: promoters say mangosteen can help prevent aging, boost your immune system, and even protect you from cancer. However, there's no mainstream medical evidence to back these claims.

So How Does Mangosteen Taste?

I think the fruit tastes a bit like a cross between an orange and a peach, but fairly mild.

It is mostly a texture experience when you eat a mangosteen. That’s good for companies that want to add mangosteen to foods and drinks (it doesn’t alter the taste much) but it also means that the fruit contains less nutrients than other, more potent, fruits.

Of all the superfruits, mangosteen is probably the worst. Sure it has (like all fruits) some antioxidants and other healthy nutrients, but the amounts of these nutrients is just nothing special –- much less than even traditional fruits like apple, oranges and bananas. Pretty much, mangosteen is a fruit and, as a fruit, it is good for you. If you like it, eat it; but don’t think that you are getting any better health benefits than if you simply ate a variety of more common fruits.

How to Eat a Mangosteen

There are many ways of preparing mangosteens. Simply cutting open a mangosteen and displaying the symmetric "meat" of the mangosteen can be part of a stunning presentation.

There are various other uses for mangosteen.

In Ghana, people use mangosteen twigs as chewsticks.

The fruit rind is used to tan leather in China. In Thailand, the wood is used to make spears and in some carpentry. Traditional medicine systems in China use the dried fruits for dysentery and eczema, and preparations are made to help with diarrhea. None of these uses has been scientifically proven.

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Chae HS et al. Mangosteen Extract Attenuates the Metabolic Disorders of High-Fat-Fed Mice by Activating AMPK. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2015 Oct 9.

Liu QY et al. New insights into the anti-obesity activity of xanthones from Garcinia mangostana. Food & Function. 2015 Feb;6(2):383-93.

Purdue NEWcrop database. Mangosteen.

Xie Z et al. Daily consumption of a mangosteen-based drink improves in vivo antioxidant and anti-inflammatory biomarkers in healthy adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Food Science and Nutrition. 2015 Jul;3(4):342-8.

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