When you cut your finger, bruise a knee, or catch the flu, inflammation acts as a friend, rallying the body’s immune system to defend against microbes and heal the injury or illness. But when the immune response never shuts off, that chronic low-level inflammation irritates the body and can raise the risk of diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. While researchers haven’t untangled all the mechanisms behind this yet, hyperactive immune cells can, for example, destabilize cholesterol deposits, setting the stage for heart attack, or they can destroy nerve cells in those predisposed to Alzheimer’s.
Chronic inflammation–triggered by everything from the typical Western diet of processed, sugary foods to irritated bowels, inflamed gums, and autoimmune disease–can be detected with tests that measure levels of C-reactive protein (an inflammation marker) and white blood cell counts. You don’t need a test, however, to take proactive steps against inflammation. A diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, spices like turmeric, magnesium-rich foods, olive oil, and omega-3 fatty acids all help douse the flames.
Another star “firefighter” is mangosteen juice. Native to tropical locales such as Thailand, the mangosteen fruit looks nothing at all like a mango (or a beer stein, for that matter). What sets this tangerine-size fruit apart are its high levels of xanthones, powerful antioxidants that have garnered growing attention from medical researchers. So far, they’ve isolated 220 types of xanthones–42 of which are found in mangosteen. Xanthones dampen inflammation by inhibiting the action of key inflammatory enzymes like COX-2 and 5-LOX. An in vitro study, presented in March at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting found that concentrated mangosteen (specifically Mango-xan Antioxidant Recovery Formula made by Pure Fruit Technologies) reduced the activity of these enzymes by about 98 percent.
No one’s yet studied the effect mangosteen has on humans, but anecdotal evidence supports the anti-inflammatory claims, with “people who regularly take a mangosteen product reporting relief from chronic pain,” says Wayne Geilman, Ph.D., of Pure Fruit Technologies.
While custom laws prevent merchants from importing the entire mangosteen to the United States, you can buy several types of concentrates and purees in natural food stores. Some companies, like Genesis Today, offer pure mangosteen juice, while others, like Pure Fruit Technologies, Trace Minerals, and Dynamic Health Laboratories, offer blends of the fruit’s juice, flesh, and rind, which may pack more potency.
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