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Small, Simple...and Strong - The Health Benefits of Bergamot

Getting to know Bergatone

A fragrant and floral member of the citrus family, the bergamot is labelled an orange but its yellowy/green appearance often means it’s mistaken for a type of lemon. Moving past the citric confusion, one thing’s for sure, the bergamot orange is pretty much inedible as it’s extremely bitter, so you probably won’t see it popping up in your next G&T.

Its bitter flavour doesn’t put it in good favour for a fruit salad, but that’s not to say that the bergamot doesn’t have its own set of unique and incredibly useful qualities.

A Brief History of Bergamot

The humble bergamot’s history is relatively recent, as it wasn’t until the 1860’s in Calabria, Italy, that the first bergamot gardens were planted in the infancy of the unification of the Italian state. 

Surrounded by the microclimate countryside above Sicily and near the Mediterranean, bergamot oil is exclusive to the region and like Champagne, isn’t found anywhere else in the world. Most orchards are between Reggio Calabria and Locri because of bergamot tree’s high sensitivity to pedoclimatic conditions. The region’s warm climate facilitates the growth of the fruit’s distinctive oil on its skin. 

Bergamot oil began to grow in reputation and was associated with European high-society and had a premium association because it was used in expensive, high-quality perfumes. The oil became an expensive commodity and the orchards in Italy became very sought after and worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Wealthy Europeans would also wear pomanders with bergamot scent to ward off fevers.

But the fruit also had renowned medical properties too and bergamot was traditionally used by locals as general health tonic or a more specific remedy for “fatty arteries” and heart problems. And there’s ample reason to show that they were correct in their assessment, as the Citrus Bergamia Risso (Bergamot) from Calabria Italy has its own unique chemical properties.

Now you’ll find that bergamot flavouring is used in food, drink, especially tea and cosmetics such as skin creams, bubble bath and shower gels. It’s still used in perfumes and for aromatherapy products.

The Health Benefits of Bergamot

The most exciting thing about the bergamot is its potential to improve cardiovascular health – particularly their ability to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis in a similar way that statin medication would for patients with high cholesterol or heart conditions.

Bioactives found in the bergamot are the key to these cardio-vascular developments. The combination of its polyphenols; Naringin, Neohesperin, Brutelidin and Melitidin creates the precise health benefits that aren’t present in other citrus fruits. These polyphenols are exclusive to Calabria and they are specifically effective at reducing levels of bad fats and clinical trials have continued to show cholesterol-lowering results.

Science of Bergamot

What does the research say?

Clinical studies have shown encouraging results for bergamot being used as a supplement connected to cardio-vascular conditions. A trial was conducting and concluded 200 patients with high levels of fat in their blood. Over a month, the trial found that on average, LDL cholesterol (bad) decreased by 39% by taking the extract and patient’s ‘good’ cholesterol was boosted by 41 percent. Not only that, bergamot decreased blood sugars by 22%. There weren’t any evident side-effects reported by patients either.

Fatty deposits in the liver are also shown to reduce when taking bergamot extracts. Another study with 107 patients who lived with metabolic syndrome and had a fatty liver took part over 120 days. Liver health was shown to improve over this time, as well as a beneficial impact on cholesterol levels, lipid particle characteristics and blood sugar levels.  

Another study in the International Journal of Cardiology from 2013, showed that when 77 patients took 1,000 milligrams daily of bergamot extract over a month, their cholesterol dropped from an average of 278 milligrams per decilitre of blood to 19.

Scientist Bergamot

How does bergamot have this effect?

We think you’ll agree that the research shows some really positive signs for the bergamot and cardio-vascular health, so let’s take a look at how the chemistry of this citric star works. Essentially, the unique polyphenols attach themselves to the bad fats which are found in the gut. This means that it’s then much easier to excrete the fats and prevent them from making their way into a person’s circulatory system. Polyphenols are also fantastic sources of antioxidant, which is important for overall heart health and removing toxins from the body.

Typically, statins cooperate with liver enzymes to restrict the decrease of CoQ10 and in fact, bergamot polyphenols carry out a similar function – they alter how the liver interprets the fats and end up following a similar process to statins. 

The great thing is that the bergamot polyphenols also interact with these fat-processing enzymes, but they don’t counteract the work that another medicine someone is taking carries out. This means that statins can potentially be effective at a lower dose when they work in conjunction with a bergamot extract.

Statins side-effects

Being able to take a lower dosage of statins, but still experience the cardio-vascular benefits of the medication is important for patients that suffer from side-effects, thought to be 1 in 10 people. Common side-effects are as follows: nosebleeds, sore throat, a runny or blocked nose, headache, feeling sick, problems with the digestive system, muscle and joint pain, increased blood sugar level and an increased risk of diabetes.

Muscle problems over time can be a particularly troublesome side-effect for patients too. Damage and swelling is occasionally caused by taking statins, as well as weaknesses, general pain and tenderness. This can be because of the levels of creatine kinase spike in a patient’s blood. 

What usually happens is a GP would test these levels and if they’re 5 times higher than normal when taking statins, they’d advise someone to stop their dose until they’re back at a reasonable level. When CK levels stabilise and get back to normal levels, statins can be taken again at a lower dose and CK levels can then be kept an eye on.

Therefore, if you are a patient that gets muscle problems from taking statins, the introduction of bergamot extract would enable similar effects at a lower dose but reduce the risk of limiting muscle pain and weakness.

We’d always advise you to consult with your GP before you change a statin dosage to talk through all of your options and the consequences.

Bergamot and the cardiovascular system

Rise in Cardio-Vascular Diseases

Worryingly, the British Heart Foundation’s research has found that heart and circulatory disease deaths in under 75's has seen its first sustained rise in 50 years. With the number of deaths caused by heart and circulatory diseases in under 65s on the rise too. There’s been a slowing of progress and a higher risk because of more widespread conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Another alarming development has seen obesity levels in the UK more than treble in the last 30 years.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for this rise and like with any set of statistics, there are a range of factors behind it. Just a few reasons for cardio-vascular issues can be dietary i.e eating fatty foods, not exercising enough, being overweight/obese, smoking and drinking alcohol. And there are many hereditary conditions too.

Lifestyle choices can be a leading factor in cardio-vascular conditions and there are a complex array of factors why this could be accounting for a rise in deaths and conditions in 2019 – more food choices (places to eat, takeaways, food apps) to different leisurely pursuits (watching tv, playing video games, using smartphone) and more stresses and strains from modern life too (unemployment, precarious work shifts, lack of money).

Bergamot Fruit Benefits

IBergamot fruit health benefitsf you are looking for bergamot as a supplement you have to find one which has a fruit extract and not from the peel (which is generally cheaper). Equally important is the 38-47% strength, premium-grade bergamot fruit extract (BPF) from Reggio Calabria, the best region for growth because of the unique microclimate and soil conditions. Bergamot from this region is the only place that can nurture a fruit with the correct strength to combat fatty liver, cholesterol and help with weight issues.


The Science Part

Calabrian-grown bergamot has 5 key polyphenols: Naringin, Neoesperidin, Necoeriocitrin, Melitidine and Bruteridin, and they’re the main active components of the bergamot fruit extract that make it so uniquely beneficial. 

And it’s these 5 plant components that are focused in Calabrian bergamot – all extracts must have a minimum strength of 38- 47% to give them as much effectiveness as possible. In our production process. This means that extracts from 6 bergamot fruits for each tablet, so you are taking exactly the right levels to enhance health benefits.

As we mentioned, polyphenols are really effective antioxidants, as they activate the proteins that challenge and break down fatty acids and glucose, which balances blood sugar levels and can help with managing weight too, because the polyphenols bind to fats released from food within the gut.

How to select an effective bergamot Brand?

In most bergamot supplements the polyphenols levels are significantly less than 25% without the key polyphenolic plant actives that Calabrian bergamot extract has, which all adds up to a product that is cheaper but ineffective. Just because another product may profess to have a high weight of bergamot extract, this doesn’t mean it’ll be more effective than another with less, because it’s about the strength of the polyphenolic actives.

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