How do you control your cholesterol? Many people take a statin medication such as atorvastatin or simvastatin to keep their blood fats within normal range. On the other hand, you might prefer a more natural approach. One reader wondered whether to try taking a bergamot extract to lower high cholesterol.
Q. I have had success taking red yeast rice to lower my cholesterol. However, it’s not quite as effective now as in the beginning. My nutritionist suggested trying citrus bergamot. Is there research to back this up?
Citrus Bergamot Against High Cholesterol:
A. We were surprised to learn that Citrus bergamia, the bergamot orange, acts on the same enzyme as red yeast rice and statins to lower cholesterol (Mollace et al, Fitoterapia, April 2011). Presumably we ought not to have been surprised: an Israeli study showed that a different citrus fruit, red grapefruit, can improve blood lipids (Gorinstein et al, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, March 2006).
Scientists have conducted a handful of studies to determine if C. bergamia or its extract would be effective for treating high cholesterol. One study of 80 individuals found that such an extract (Bergavit R®) lowered cholesterol significantly during the six-month study (Toth et al, Frontiers in Pharmacology, Jan. 6, 2016). This trial was not placebo-controlled, however. In addition, a very small clinical trial using a blend of bergamot fruit extract and other plant extracts (Cardiox-LDL®) demonstrated drops in cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (Babish et al, Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, Dec. 2016). Disappointingly, this study had no placebo arm, either.
Some other studies have not confirmed the lipid-lowering benefits of bergamot. On the other hand, a review found that overall, this unusual fruit contains flavanone compounds that may act as natural statins (Cappello et al, Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 2016).