Citrus Bergamot: A Lemon Look-A-Like That Supports the Heart

by Stacey Bell, PhD

Did you know that the juice of something that looks like a lemon could actually help manage your heart health? We are talking about Citrus bergamot fruit, which is endemic to Southern Italy. 

Bergamot is rich in polyphenols, especially naringenin and hesperitin. A standardized extract from this plant has been shown to interfere with the enzyme in the liver that regulates how much cholesterol the body can produce. Remember, your blood cholesterol is determined by how much you eat in the diet and how much your body makes. 

A group of Italian researchers investigated three different groups of patients with heart disease. One (group of 109) had high cholesterol levels, a second (group of 42) had high blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and sugar, and a third (group of 32) could not tolerate a drug prescribed by their doctor used to lower cholesterol. Three amounts of the extract were tested: 500 mg, 1,000 mg, and 1,500 mg for 30 days. 

In all of the groups, and at all amounts of Citrus bergamot, clinically important changes occurred in blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. In addition, the good cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, went up. 

This study demonstrated three important points. First, Citrus bergamot supports heart health. Second, it is rare that a natural substance can raise the good cholesterol (HDL), but Citrus bergamot did. Third, the dietary supplement helped people who could not tolerate a cholesterol-lowering drug.

Mollace V. Fitoterapia 2011; 82:309-316