(NaturalHealth365) Can bergamot (a fruit from Italy) eliminate the need for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, such as Lipitor and Zocor? Keep in mind, these cholesterol medications are dangerous.
For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires statin drugs to carry labels warning of their association with type 2 diabetes, confusion, memory loss, and muscle pain.
In addition, these toxic medications can cause liver toxicity, fatigue, exercise intolerance, heart failure and even premature death. Fortunately, an extract from an unusual orange grown in the south of sunny Italy is impressing researchers with its ability to safely improve heart health, control blood sugar and reduce the symptoms associated with chronic stress.
Bergamot oranges are a treasure trove of antioxidants and flavonoids
The bergamot orange, scientifically known as Citrus bergamia, is grown in the Calabria region of southern Italy. Small amounts of the oil and the zest – or peel – are commercially used as flavorings, and it is essential oils from bergamot peel that give Earl Grey tea its characteristic aroma.
Although the peel, pulp and juice are packed with nutrients, the fruit is so intensely bitter that it would be difficult to ingest enough to receive any benefits. However, concentrated bergamot extracts are available, and it is these extracts that are producing such striking results in clinical studies.
The properties of bergamot perform like statin drugs – minus the negative side effects
Bergamot is extremely rich in antioxidant polyphenols, flavonoids and flavonoid derivatives – particularly bruteridine and melitidine, which researchers believe are responsible for bergamot’s beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.
Bergamot binds cholesterol to bile acids, promoting its excretion while dramatically lowering levels of triglycerides and harmful LDL cholesterol. At the same time, it increases levels of the beneficial HDL cholesterol that helps to cleanse arteries of harmful plaque – something statin drugs are powerless to do.
Bergamot also supports heart health by improving arterial function
In addition to improving lipid and cholesterol levels, this bitter orange is a boon to blood vessels. Bergamot extract’s powerful antioxidant effects protect against the free radicals that can cause endothelial dysfunction – disturbances in the fragile linings of the arteries – which contributes to atherosclerosis.
Studies have also shown that bergamot extract suppresses inflammation, helps to control blood pressure, and reduces the tendency of blood to form dangerous clots.
And, unlike toxic statin drugs, bergamot accomplishes all this without depleting stores of coenzyme Q10, one of the body’s premier endogenous antioxidants. In fact, one study showed that bergamot extract actually increased levels of superoxide dismutase, another free radical-fighting natural antioxidant.
What are some sample study results?
In one randomized placebo-controlled clinical study published in Fitoterapia, participants with high cholesterol levels – meaning total cholesterol and triglycerides over 250 – were given either 500 mg or 1000 mg of bergamot extract a day for a month. At the end of that time, LDL levels in the 500-mg group fell by 24 percent, while the 1000-mg group benefited with a reduction of 36 percent. Triglycerides dropped by 30 and 39 percent, respectively.
Since low HDL levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, researchers were impressed that bergamot increased HDL – by a significant raise of 24 percent in the first group, and a very dramatic increase of 40 percent in the second group.
These would be considered very promising results for a pharmaceutical drug. The fact that a safe and natural substance brought these about is even more impressive, and caused researchers to remark on bergamot extract’s “striking potency.”
Can bergamot replace statins?
One of the most encouraging studies involved 32 patients who had experienced adverse effects from statin drugs. After a “wash-out” period of two months, in which they stopped taking all statin drugs, participants took 500 mg of bergamot extract three times a day. After 30 days, they experienced a 27.2 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol – without experiencing any side effects.
Although bergamot seems capable of replacing statin drugs for some patients, you shouldn’t stop taking any prescribed medications without first discussing the matter with your doctor.
Bergamot initiates AMP-activated protein kinase, lowering blood sugar
While supporting cardiovascular health and reducing risk factors for heart disease, this versatile and hard-working substance also initiates the release of AMPK, which affects the metabolism of glucose and fatty acids.
Increasing AMPK improves insulin sensitivity and promotes the uptake of glucose into cells, thereby helping to regulate blood sugar. Studies have shown that 500 to 1,000 mg of bergamot a day can lower blood sugar by about 22 percent.
In addition, bergamot extract can promote weight loss, which can be helpful in controlling type 2 diabetes.
Bergamot offers natural stress relief
Research shows that bergamot aromatherapy can cause the brain to release calming neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, helping to relieve stress and anxiety, elevate mood and ease depression. In fact, animal studies reveal that bergamot reduced the corticosterone response to stress.
In addition, clinical studies confirm the stress-reducing effect of this amazing fruit. In one placebo-controlled study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, bergamot was confirmed to have anxiolytic – or anxiety-reducing – effects.
Participants who were due to have surgery were given either bergamot essential oil therapy or a placebo therapy using only water vapor. The bergamot group had a significantly greater decrease in pre-surgical anxiety, as well as reductions in heart rate and blood pressure. Researchers suggested that bergamot could be a useful part of a holistic approach to reducing pre-operative anxiety.
How can I use bergamot for maximum benefits?
Bergamot extract is commercially available as Bergamonte, an extract of bergamot standardized to contain 25 percent flavanones, with 1 percent melitidine and 2 percent bruteridine. The usual dosage is 500 to 1,000 mg taken once or twice a day, 20 to 30 minutes before meals. Some natural healers recommend taking bergamot for a month or so, then re-evaluating cholesterol and blood sugar levels and adjusting the dose if necessary.
If you would like to try bergamot aromatherapy, make sure you obtain 100 percent pure essential oil – and not a synthesized “fragrance” of bergamot. Using an ultrasonic aroma diffuser is ideal because these break the essential oil of bergamot into microscopic, easily-absorbable particles.
If you don’t have access to an ultrasonic diffuser, don’t worry – you can still access the soothing benefits of bergamot by putting a couple drops of the essential oil in a bowl of hot water, and inhaling the steam.
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