No established dosage guidelines related to the use of bergamot for cholesterol have been set by recognized health agencies. Citrus bergamot supplements typically contain 500 milligrams of extract in gelatin capsules. They should be taken on an empty stomach, and without other medication, which might cause adverse reactions. Before using bergamot, patients should check with their doctors for advice, especially while using medication to lower blood pressure or drugs for other medical conditions.
Bergamot extract comes from the fruit of Citrus bergamia Risso, a species grown primarily in southern Italy. People who use bergamot for cholesterol typically avoid eating the fruit or drinking its juice because of its bitter flavor. This yellow fruit grows about the size of an average orange, but its taste exceeds the bitterness of grapefruit. It looks like a lemon, but is not as sour.
Peelings from the fruit can be added to pastries as zest. Its essential oils typically appear in about half of all perfumes manufactured and in other cosmetic products. Bergamot oil also gives certain brands of tea a pleasant aroma. Oils might also be used in aromatherapy to produce a calming effect.
The use of bergamot for cholesterol gained attention after two studies showed it lowered total cholesterol levels, along with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. LDL, often called bad cholesterol, represents a major risk factor for heart disease. It might cause fats to accumulate in arteries and reduce blood flow carrying oxygen to the heart and brain. The research also showed bergamot for cholesterol raised the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), considered good cholesterol with protective benefits.
Triglyceride levels also fell in study participants using bergamot for cholesterol. Triglycerides represent the amount of fat stored in the human body for use as energy. In both studies, researchers found substantial decreases in triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol levels. Dosages ranged between 500 milligrams a day to 1,000 milligrams daily. All patients used in the research had total cholesterol levels above 250 before they took bergamot.
A published 2009 study conducted by Italian scientists showed bergamot lowered total cholesterol levels by about 31 percent after one month. LDL levels fell about 39 percent, and triglycerides dropped 41.5 percent. The report also states HDL levels rose approximately 43 percent in participants who took bergamot capsules once or twice a day for four weeks. Another effect discovered by researchers occurred in blood glucose levels, which decreased an average of 22 percent.
Bergamot might work by blocking the production of cholesterol in the liver. This action might force the liver to seek cholesterol stored in the bloodstream when production falls too low. Substances found in the fruit have been compared to commercial drugs in their ability to lower cholesterol. Some manufacturers of bergamot supplements suggest two to four 500 milligram capsules daily for the first month, and one capsule daily as a maintenance dose.
Bergamot Side Effects
Bergamot supplements may cause a few mild side effects in some people. These include heartburn, dizziness and cramps. Bergamot oils and extracts can also affect blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, don’t take bergamot supplements unless your doctor gives you the OK. The supplements can potentially cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar and blood pressure.
For these reasons, you should also avoid bergamot if you have surgery planned. Generally speaking, it’s best to stop taking bergamot supplements at least two weeks before your surgery. Confirm with your doctor in advance if you’re using bergamot as a natural remedy to lower cholesterol levels.
Bergamot oil that contains bergapten can potentially cause negative health effects. Some people have experienced blurry vision, muscle cramps and digestive problems when ingesting bergamot essential oils containing bergapten.
Like other concentrated natural oils and extracts, bergamot shouldn’t be used by nursing or pregnant women. If you take any kind of medication, speak with your doctor about bergamot supplements before starting. This is especially important if you’re on statins or other prescription medications designed to help with heart health, cholesterol or blood pressure.
How Much Bergamot Should I Take for Cholesterol?
Current studies on the effectiveness of bergamot extract for cholesterol evaluated amounts of 500 mg, 650 mg and 1,000 mg. In the available studies, people taking 1,000 mg daily experienced more significant effects than people taking 500 mg a day. That said, there are no official guidelines for bergamot extract or bergamot oil amounts.
No U.S. health agencies have offered guidance regarding recommended or safe dosages. Many supplements provide bergamot extract in amounts of 500 to 1,000 mg.
What Is the Difference Between Bergamot Extract and Bergamot Essential Oil?
Bergamot juice and extract come from the flesh of the fruit. On the other hand, bergamot oil comes from the pressed rinds of bergamot fruit. This oil is what is used in Earl Grey tea. There are edible forms of bergamot oil and extract that don’t contain bergapten, a compound that isn’t safe for consumption.
Bergamot essential oils that are used for skincare are generally more concentrated, and they may contain bergapten. They shouldn’t be taken orally. If you want to add bergamot oil to your tea, use it for cooking or take it as a liquid supplement, make sure it says “food grade” and “bergapten-free” on the label.
Best Bergamot Supplement for Cholesterol
To select the best bergamot supplement for cholesterol, look at the amount of bergamot extract present in the formulation. Scientists believe that the health benefits of bergamot for cholesterol come from a group of antioxidants called polyphenols. Bergamot extract is high in flavonoids, a special type of polyphenols.
Some research suggests that flavonoids and other polyphenols may help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and provide other benefits for heart health. If this is true, then choosing bergamot supplements with additional flavonoids or concentrated polyphenols may increase the positive effects.
It’s important to note that the FDA doesn’t check dietary supplements for accuracy, so any health claims you see on the label may not always be true.