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What is Bergamot?

Bergamot: Citrus fruits for Cholesterol.

Bergamot is a citrus fruit grown almost exclusively on the south-eastern coast of Italy. It’s a natural hybrid of Sweet Limetta and Bitter Orange and has been used for centuries as a medicine, in perfumes and for the characteristic citrus flavour of Earl Grey tea.

Bergamot extract (BE), (or juice) is a by-product of making its essential oil. Recent research has identified an exciting role for Bergamot extract to play. It has extremely high antioxidant activity – about 2800 times greater than apple juice – and may also have action on maintaining healthy cholesterol levels in healthy adults.*

Bergamot extract contains a high level of flavonoids and flavonoid glycosides which have been shown to maintain healthy cholesterol and lipid levels in healthy individuals. Studies have demonstrated that it can help withmaintaining normal levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol in healthy individuals.*

Unfortunately, a cup of Earl Grey tea does not pack a potent enough punch of flavonoids to affect cholesterol levels.

The studies indicate that an intake of 500-1500mg of BE per day for at least a month produces a positive effect on the HDL LDL ratio..*

What does the science say?

Studies show Bergamot's action on maintaining normal cholesterol levels in healthy individuals may be due to interference with HMG-CoA reductase – a key enzyme in the pathway that produces cholesterol.*

What’s great about Bergamot is, even though it works on the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme, it doesn’t appear to effect ubiquinone (CoQ10) metabolism!

Current Guidelines:
The current Australian guidelines for cholesterol levels are:

  • Total cholesterol - Less than 4.0 mmol/L.
  • HDL - Greater than 1.0 mmol/L.
  • LDL - Less than 2.0 mmol/L.
  • Triglycerides - Less than 2.0 mmol/L.

Cholesterol's not all bad, it's used for:

  • Hormone production - Cholesterol can be used as a precursor by testis, ovaries or the adrenal gland to make steroid hormones, including sex hormones such as testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone.
  • Vitamin D production - Cholesterol is also a precursor to vitamin D.
  • The digestion of fats - It helps the liver to produce bile acids, which are essential to the digestion of fats.
  • Cell structure and function - A main component of cell membranes and structures is cholesterol, a kind of building block for bodily tissues. Cholesterol is there to basically provide a protective barrier. When the amount of cholesterol increases or decreases, the cells are affected. This change can affect our ability to metabolize and produce energy.

Mollace, V., et al. Hypolipemic and hypoglycaemic activity of bergamot polyphenols: From animal models to human studies. Fitoterapia. 2011 Apr;82(3):309-16. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.10.014. Epub 2010 Nov 4.