- History and cultivation of bergamot
- Bergamot and heart healthy polyphenols
- Brutieridin and Melitidin
- Bergamot studies show promise in lowering LDL
- Bergamot orange and the future
- Genes supported by bergamot
- Bergamot antimicrobial properties
- Take home message
History and cultivation of bergamotHighly prized for their complex flavorings and aromas, bergamot oranges are mainly grown in the countries surrounding the Ionian sea, with the south coast of Italy being a major growing location. Historically bergamot oranges were processed into their essential oil which was then used to provide the top-notes in numerous perfumes, dating back to the 18th century. Later, they were used to flavor Earl Grey tea, reportedly first blended by Jacksons of Piccadilly in the 1830s. While still used for these purposes, medical researchers have begun identifying compounds found only in bergamot oranges with interesting properties that can protect cardiovascular health. 1
Bergamot and heart healthy polyphenolsPolyphenols are complex natural molecules, found mainly in plants. They perform a wide variety of duties but are often characterized as being highly aromatic (both in the chemical and smell sense). 2 Bergamot oranges are a particularly rich source of polyphenols, even compared to other citrus fruit, hence their common use as a flavorings or aromatics. But it is not the quantity of polyphenols produced by bergamot oranges that is of interest to researchers, rather it is the production of two molecules brutieridin and melitidin, which are not found in any other citrus species.
Brutieridin and MelitidinStatins are a class of drug that function to reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood, by inhibiting the action of the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase. We’ve covered LDL-C, TG/HDL ratio and dietary cholesterol in previous posts, which can get you up to speed, but the current medical consensus is that high levels of LDL (especially APOB) are associated with an increased cardiovascular disease risk. Whilst statins are effective and the first choice for most of us, they are not the only LDL lowering treatment available. Bergamot juice has long been used in the Calabrian region (the toe of the boot) of Italy as a means to reduce blood lipids. This use led researchers to investigate the bergamot orange at the molecular level, identifying brutieridin and melitidin as the reasons why bergamot is so heart healthy.34 Both brutieridin and melitidin displayed a remarkable similarity to certain statin drugs, which lead researchers to hypothesize that they to may block HMG-CoA reductase activity, leading to a reduction in LDL.
Bergamot studies show promise in lowering LDLAfter successful trials in a rat model which showed a significant reduction in serum cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL levels, coupled with an increase in HDL levels,5 researchers next investigated the effect of brutieridin and melitidin in human patients with high LDL and high triglyceride levels. 6 The results are shown below, but patients who received 500 or 1,000 mg of BPF (bergamot polyphenol fraction, essentially refined bergamot oil) for 30 consecutive days saw a significant reduction in total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and blood glucose coupled with a significant increase in HDL levels. And most importantly without any reported side effects. Significant improvements in blood lipid chemistry were observed after taking bergamot oil (White and gray columns). BPF (bergamot polyphenol fraction), totChol (total cholesterol), cLDL (low density lipoprotein cholesterol), cHDL (high density lipoprotein cholesterol), TG (triglycerides) and BGluc (blood glucose).
Bergamot orange and the futureThese highly promising results led to the authors to make the following statement:
On the basis of our data, BPF oral supplements contribute to lowering plasma cholesterol and lipids in a rat model of dietinduced hyperlipemia and in patients, in a range of potency comparable with low dose statins. Thus BPF offers a safe alternative for patients suffering from statins toxicity.As you can imagine research into bergamot oranges, and the properties of brutieridin and melitidin in particular, has increased greatly. While there are currently no studies investigating the effect of bergamot oil on blood chemistry in healthy people, to the same extent as the above study, there are some recent reports showing an increase in HDL levels. 7