Bergamot lowers cholesterol.
There are 11 pre-clinical and 4 clinical studies supporting the claim that bergamot lowers cholesterol.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso) grows well in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. It has a unique profile of flavonoids and glycosides including neroeriocitrin, naringin, rutin, neodesmin and rhoifolin. It is often used as the top note in perfumes and gives the distinctive flavor and aroma to earl grey tea.
A comprehensive literature review of the effect of bergamot on dyslipidemia in Phytomedicine in 2016 identified 11 preclinical studies evaluating the effect of bergamot on dyslipidemia (1). The studies involved cell lines, rats and rabbits. All 11 pre-clinical studies showed that bergamot reduced lipids including cholesterol.
There are four clinical studies in humans evaluating the effect of bergamot on dyslipidemia. The first study looked at bergamot at a dose of 500 and 1000 milligrams a day in 237 patients with diet induced hyperlipidemia over a period of one month (2). The study showed statistically significant reductions in cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels in patients taking bergamot as compared to match controls. There was also an increase in HDL cholesterol. The study showed significant reductions in glucose levels in the bergamot treated group suggesting that bergamot has complex effects on overall metabolic regulation.
The second study was done in 2013 and evaluated the effect of bergamot addition to rosuvastatin therapy in 77 patients over one month (3). Rosuvastatin is a commonly prescribed medication used to reduce plasma cholesterol. The study showed that the addition of bergamot to rosuvastatin significantly enhanced the rosuvastatin effect on serum lipids as compared to rosuvastatin therapy alone. Additionally, there were significant reductions in biomarkers of oxidative vascular damage.
The third study was done in 2014 and evaluated the effect of bergamot in 107 patients (4). The study looked at the effect of bergamot on lipid profile and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The study took place over a period of two months. This study confirmed the beneficial effects of bergamot on cholesterol profiles and also resulted in a reduction in liver steatosis or fat in the liver.
More recently, a bergamot-derived extract was given at a fixed dose daily (150 mg of flavonoids, with 16% of neoeriocitrin, 47% of neohesperidin and 37% of naringin) to 80 people with moderate hypercholesterolemia for 6 months (5). The study was not a placebo controlled study. Subjects acted as their own control and cholesterol measurements were compared before and after the study for each person. The study showed a decrease in plasma cholesterol and sub-clinical atherosclerosis (as measured by carotid intimal wall thickness) at the end of the study period.
All four studies showed that bergamot was well tolerated. The main side effects of bergamot noted was photosensitivity. People on medication to lower plasma glucose should take care and seek medical advice when considering taking bergamot in view of the fact that bergamot can also lower blood glucose.
In summary there is growing evidence to support the claim that bergamot can lower cholesterol.