Nutrition Notes

The Health-Supportive Role of Bergamot

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a citrus plant from the Calabrian region of southern Italy. It was used traditionally in Italian folk medicine to support health related to many different bodily systems. Bergamot is different than other citrus fruits because it has a high content of flavonoids, including neoeriocitrin, neohesperidin, naringin, rutin, and neodesmin. It is known today for its role in supporting cardiovascular health, a healthy response to inflammation, and healthy lipid metabolism. 

A systematic review investigated the potential of bergamot to influence lipid metabolism in humans. Of the 12 studies that met full eligibility criteria, 75% reported a significant decrease in lipid parameters, including total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Eight studies indicated an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. The constituents of bergamot, rutin and neoeriocitrin, have been shown to influence LDL cholesterol activity. Other constituents may have the ability to modulate β-Hydroxy β-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase. The authors of the review report that improvements related to bergamot may be dose-dependent that improvements related to bergamot may be dose-dependent.

One placebo-controlled study highlighted in the systematic review assessed the effects of 500 mg or 1,000 mg of daily supplementation, with an extract of bergamot in individuals who have been diagnosed with hyperlipidemia for 30 days. Significant reductions were reported for total and LDL cholesterol levels, and for triglyceride levels. Flow-mediated vasodilation was shown to increase significantly in both treatment arms. Another systematic review reported significant improvements in lipid profiles and a significant reduction of carotid intima thickness after long-term intake of Bergavit®, a patented extract of bergamot (containing approximately 30% flavonoids). 

Bergamot may also support cardiovascular health. It has been reported that bergamot may potentially improve certain parameters related to atherosclerosis, which were likely due to its ability to support a healthy response to oxidative stress and inflammation.

In animal studies, ingestion of the constituents of bergamot, namely naringin and naringenin, have been exhibited in the animals with anti-atherogenic qualities. Citrus flavonoids, such as those in bergamot, have been shown to potentially modulate oxidative stress through the increase of superoxide dismutase and catalase activity, and to protect plasma vitamin E. They also may modulate the overproduction of reactive oxygen species in the vascular wall, which may modulate endothelial function. Additionally, naringenin has been shown to significantly increase adenosine monophosphate kinase activity and the uptake of glucose in liver and muscle cells. 

Bergamot is a botanical herb that shows promise by its potential to support cardiovascular function, healthy lipid metabolism, and glucose metabolism, along with a healthy response to oxidative stress. In addition, newer research is exploring the potential of bergamot to support neurological health and other possible health-supportive functions. Supplementation with bergamot, along with a healthy overall lifestyle, may support heart health. 

By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT