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Does mango inhibit common breast and colon cancers?

Mango may be headed for the list of food that may help prevent or stop cancer.

The fruit has been found in laboratory tests to prevent or stop some common forms of colon and breast cancer, Texas A&M University researchers said today.

Texas AgriLife Research food scientists examined the five varieties of mango most common in the U.S.: Kent, Francine, Ataulfo, Tommy/Atkins and Haden, the university said in a news release.

“Though the mango is an ancient fruit heavily consumed in many parts of the world, little has been known about its health aspects,” Texas A&M said.


NGS stock photo by Richard Hewitt Stewart

“If you look at what people currently perceive as a superfood, people think of high antioxidant capacity, and mango is not quite there,” said Susanne Talcott, who with her husband, Steve Talcott, conducted the study on cancer cells. “In comparison with antioxidants in blueberry, acai and pomegranate, it’s not even close.”

But the team checked mango against cancer cells anyway, and found it prevented or stopped cancer growth in certain breast and colon cell lines, Susanne Talcott noted.

“It has about four to five times less antioxidant capacity than an average wine grape, and it still holds up fairly well in anticancer activity. If you look at it from the physiological and nutritional standpoint, taking everything together, it would be a high-ranking superfood,” she said. “It would be good to include mangoes as part of the regular diet.”


Photo courtesy of David Braun

The Talcotts tested mango polyphenol extracts on colon, breast, lung, leukemia and prostate cancers. Polyphenols are natural substances in plants and are associated with a variety of compounds known to promote good health, the university explained.

“Mango showed some impact on lung, leukemia and prostate cancers but was most effective on the most common breast and colon cancers,” the university noted.

“What we found is that not all cell lines are sensitive to the same extent to an anticancer agent,” Susanne Talcott said. “But the breast and colon cancer lines underwent apotosis, or programmed cell death.

“Additionally, we found that when we tested normal colon cells side by side with the colon cancer cells, that the mango polyphenolics did not harm the normal cells … so mango is not expected to be damaging in the body,” she said. “That is a general observation for any natural agent, that they target cancer cells and leave the healthy cells alone, in reasonable concentrations at least.”

The Talcotts hope to do a small clinical trial with individuals who have increased inflamation in their intestines with a higher risk for cancer.

“From there, if there is any proven efficacy, then we would do a larger trial to see if there is any clinical relevance,” she said.

Part of the Texas A&M University System, Texas AgriLife Research conducts agricultural research to assure the highest quality food and fiber products and a sustainable environment, according to the agency’s mission statement. 

The National Mango Board, based in Winter Park, Florida, commissioned this research to help determine the nutritional value of mango. The board represents mango producers and its mission is to promote mango consumption, so it is naturally invested in any positive health benefits associated with the fruit. 

According to the National Mango Board, most mangoes consumed in the U.S. are produced in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala and Haiti.

Mangoes are native to southeast Asia and India and are produced in tropical climates. They were introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800s, and a few commercial acres still exist in California and Florida, according to the board.