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. Some readers have wondered whether to try taking a bergamot extract to lower high cholesterol.
Will Citrus Bergamot Help Lower Cholesterol?
Q. I’d like to know about citrus bergamot to lower cholesterol. It seems to work. Are there side effects?
A. Bergamot is a citrus fruit (Citrus bergamia) native to southern Italy. Over the past decade or so, scientists have published numerous studies indicating that polyphenol-rich bergamot extract can lower total and LDL cholesterol levels (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2020). Some trials also show benefits in lowering triglycerides and raising HDL cholesterol.
Bergamot compounds act on lipids through different pathways than statins (Nutrients, Sep. 10, 2021). Consequently, this natural product may be an option for people who don’t do well on statins. In a randomized controlled trial, a combination of bergamot and artichoke extract lowered blood lipids significantly better than placebo (Nutrients, Dec. 27, 2021).
There are few reports of side effects, although in one study some volunteers experienced heartburn (Integrative Food, Nutrition and Metabolism, March 2019). In laboratory research, scientists found that bergamot oil might be phototoxic (Central European Journal of Public Health, Sep. 2016). That is, tissues exposed to bergamot might be especially susceptible to damage from UV light. You can learn more about lowering blood lipids with and without statins in our eGuide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.
Citrus Bergamot Against 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?
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, although the exact mechanism is unclear (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 (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 (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 (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 (Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 2016).
Possible Side Effect:
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