Mangoes provide sweet relief for constipation

By Cathy Siegner

Dive Brief:

  • A pilot study from Texas A&M University revealed that consuming mangoes is more helpful in relieving constipation than taking an equivalent amount of fiber powder. The study was published last month in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

  • The four-week study divided 36 adult men and women with chronic constipation into two groups. One ate about 2 cups of mango each day while the other used an equivalent amount of fiber powder, or about 1 teaspoon of dietary psyllium fiber supplement. After assessing the results, researchers said both groups improved, but mangoes were more effective in limiting symptoms than the fiber supplement.

  • Researchers said additional study could help better understand how mangoes provide a preventive effect for constipation and how polyphenols in the fruit support the beneficial effects of fiber. The National Mango Board helped fund this research.

Dive Insight:

       The findings from the Texas study could be significant since 16% of Americans suffer from chronic constipation, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. This can mean ongoing intestinal inflammation and significant lifestyle impact. While consuming dietary fiber and laxatives help, they don't fix all the related problems — particularly the inflammation — researchers said. But mangoes have a different beneficial effect.

Demand for mangoes has been going up as more stores carry them and consumers eat more fresh fruit. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American ate 3.5 more pounds of fresh fruit in 2016 than in 2015, with the increase coming from mangoes, lemons, limes and blueberries. Statista figures show that per-capita U.S. mango consumption was nearly 3 pounds in 2016, the highest level since 2000. The U.S. imports the majority of mangoes sold here — mainly from Mexico — although some are grown in California, Hawaii, Florida and Puerto Rico. 

Chances are mango fans aren't buying and eating them because of the fiber content and the beneficial effect on intestinal problems. It's much more likely they appreciate the fruit's unique flavor and adaptability in various recipes — plus their year-round availability.

The study results could bolster the mango's appeal if growers, exporters and retailers let it be known that the fruit might assist with gut health. Besides fiber, mangoes provide vitamins A, C and B6, and they are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. However, their sweet flavor comes with a price — 1 cup contains 24.4 grams of sugar, nearly twice that in a cup of cantaloupe.

While mangoes theoretically could provide a significant amount of the fiber humans need — 30 to 38 grams daily for men, depending on age, and 21 to 25 grams for women, depending on age — mangoes actually contain less fiber than other high-fiber fruits and vegetables including raspberries, blackberries, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. For those with chronic constipation, though, regularly including more mangoes in the diet might be a smart move.


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