What is Citrus Bergamot?
Citrus Bergamot, otherwise known as bergamot orange, Citrus bergamia risso, or citrons doux (“sweet lemons”) is the fragrant, juicy fruit of the bergamot tree. Bergamot fruit is the size of an orange but resembles a lemon in shape and color. The bergamot plant is a small tree or shrub that is cultivated primarily in the coastal regions of southern Italy near the Ionian Sea. See the picture below:
How is It Used?
Approximately 80% of citrus bergamot plants are grown in southern Italy. In the southern region of France, Bergamot is made into essential oils, and in the southern region of Turkey it's used for marmalade. The fruit itself is not commonly eaten; rather it is grown primarily for an aromatic essence that is extracted from its peel. During the past decade, bergamot has gained a lot of attention because of its use in lowering cholesterol.
What Are Its Health Benefits?
Citrus bergamot extract is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that researchers believe help reduce inflammation by decreasing chemical reactions that damage cells in the body. Flavonoids are part of a family of phytochemicals (naturally occurring chemicals in plants that give them their color and help them defend themselves in nature) called polyphenols. These polyphenols are also very beneficial in protecting human cells from tissue damage by free radicals.
This dietary supplement is offered for maintaining healthy cardiovascular health. Its benefits have been associated with healthy cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, lowered triglycerides, improved blood vessel operation, as well as enhanced blood glucose levels.†
Research from October 2016 maintains that it can counteract erectile dysfunction (ED) occurring in patients suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Citrus Bergamot and Cholesterol
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like compound that is inside every cell in the body. The liver produces it and other cells and can be found in foods that come from animal sources such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. The body produces all of the cholesterol that it needs in order to function properly.
However, it's estimated 75% of the cholesterol in the body is produced by the liver, whereas 25% comes from food. Cholesterol is used to produce steroid hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol, as well as Vitamin D, cell membranes, and bile in our digestive system that is used to break down dietary fats.
The Two Types of Cholesterol that You Will Hear About:
Cholesterol tests measure two types of cholesterol: “good”, High-Density Lipoproteins, and “bad”, Low-Density Lipoproteins. Contrary to popular belief, however, there is only one type of cholesterol. HDL and LDL are the two main channels by which cholesterol moves throughout the body.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) aka "Good" cholesterol carries blood to the liver for detoxification and helps prevent heart disease by removing plaque from inner arterial walls.
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) aka “Bad” Cholesterol is deposited on arterial walls and accumulates as plaque. This plaque build-up leads to a narrowing of the arteries, thus causing blockages and inflammation of the arteries. Plaque buildup can also develop into clots, which may then break free into the bloodstream causing a heart attack or a stroke.
Cholesterol tests also measure triglycerides, the amount of fat found in the blood, as well as Total Cholesterol, HDL and LDL levels and triglycerides.
What Are Statin Drugs?
Statins are a type of drug that works to reduce the amount of fat in the blood, namely, cholesterol and triglycerides by inhibiting the liver’s production of the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase. Statins can both slow the accumulation of new plaque in the arteries by decreasing the production of cholesterol and reducing the size of existing plaque. Furthermore, scientists are beginning to understand how statins may stabilize plaques in the arteries, making them less likely to rupture, develop clots, and cause a heart attack or stroke.
High Cholesterol and the Bigger Picture
Despite the numbers, scientists are beginning to understand that the greatest underlying cause of heart disease is inflammation. Plaque in the artery walls sends messages to the immune system, calling its attention to the “foreign invaders” inside the artery. The body responds by creating inflammation at the site of the plaque and sending white blood cells to the rescue. Under normal circumstances, this would be a good thing. However, rather than being helpful inside the arterial wall, the white blood cells get trapped inside the plaque and are unable to function, and in turn, create even more inflammation. Over time, plaque continues to accumulate and forces the arterial wall outward rather than inward, blocking the flow of blood. If the plaque ruptures or tears, blood clots form inside of the artery and can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Inflammation and Heart Disease. A PBS Production.
How Does Citrus Bergamot Work?
Clinical studies have shown that it helps maintain cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol by serving as a statin-like drug and inhibiting the production of the key enzyme that is linked to cholesterol production in the liver.2 This particular enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase, is engaged when blood sugar is elevated.
Scientists in Italy have studied Bergamot by conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 237 patients with high cholesterol as well as features of metabolic syndromes (elevated blood sugar and triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol). The subjects were given either 500 mg or 1000 mg of bergamot extract or a placebo every day for thirty days. When compared to the placebo group, the subjects who received bergamot experienced average reductions in total and LDL cholesterol, in addition to a significant increase in HDL cholesterol. Furthermore, the subjects who exhibited features of metabolic disorder showed a significant decrease in triglycerides.2
The study, conducted by co-author Dr. Vincenzo Mollacealso, determined that blood sugar levels were lowered an average of 15%-25% in the bergamot test subjects and therefore could potentially benefit individuals with prediabetes and metabolic syndrome as well as those looking to maintain a healthy weight.2†
Does Citrus Bergamot work like a statin?
In this same Italian study2, researchers substituted higher doses of citrus bergamot in the place of statin drugs for patients who were unable to take statins due to side effects. After thirty days, subjects experienced an average drop in total cholesterol levels as well as a decrease in LDL cholesterol.†
Can I Just Drink or Eat the Fruit?
The fruit is not palatable, as the flavor resembles that of a very bitter and sour grapefruit. Nevertheless, bergamot juice and bergamot extract are highly concentrated with inflammation-fighting flavonoids and antioxidants that have incredible therapeutic effects on the body. Therefore, citrus bergamot capsules and tablets are available to provide a more appetizing way to swallow the recommended dosages.
The extract is obtained from the citrus bergamia risso fruit and is standardized to 25% flavanone comprise of Neoeriocitrin, Naringin, and Neohesperidin, 1% Melitidine, 2% Bruteridine.
Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety
Citrus bergamot extract has a very dynamic fragrance and is used worldwide in a variety of colognes, perfumes, hand creams, and aromatherapy oils. Perhaps the most common use of bergamot is in Earl Grey tea; for it is citrus bergamot oil that gives the tea it’s distinguished citrus flavor and scent. Furthermore, research suggests that bergamot oils contain certain elements that have been found to lower anxiety by altering the functioning of neurotransmitters.3
It's essential oils have proven to do more than just induce relaxation and a sense of well-being. Human studies show that the inhalation of bergamot essential oils help stimulate the brain to release serotonin and dopamine - neurotransmitters that help regulate mood as well as relieve both physical and psychological stress, anxiety, and depression.4-5 Subjects exposed to the bergamot oils showed significant decreases in their heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety scores, as opposed to the placebo group who showed no changes at all.
Is It Safe?
While subjects in Dr. Mollace’s study only reported mild heartburn as the only side effect, more studies will need to be conducted in order to determine its safety. It's an extract from a citrus fruit, so those with allergies to citrus fruits should not use this product.
Dosage: Begamonte† follows the published human clinical studies by providing 250 mg capsules of Bergamonte and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). There are 60 capsules per bottle. You should take no less than 4 in the first month, 2 in the morning and 2 in the evening before your meals (2 bottles for the first month). Then you can stay on 4, or reduce to 3-2 per day depending upon your blood profile and lifestyle. Ideally you will use Bergamonte for 3 months and then have your blood tested again. Once your blood work is in a healthy range, you may take as little as 2 per day as a maintenance dosage. The 250 mg dosage is provided to give you this flexibility.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
1 Revolucion World Wide.;(2011, February 28). Inflammation and Heart Disease a PBS Production [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X-VTMF10VI
Research study: Herbal Powers Research Study
An Italian Study on Bergamonte's Effect on Cholesterol: http://www.wsj.com/articles/researchers-in-italy-found-bergamot-lowered-blood-cholesterol-1421703338
Fox News Article: Bergamot Orange Lowers Cholesterol.
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