Several recent studies suggest that extracts from the bergamot citrus (an Italian orange-like citrus that is best known as the aromatic ingredient in Earl Grey tea) may be as effective as statin drugs in reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes associated with metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome, reportedly affecting 35 percent of Americans, is characterized by high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
That a natural supplement has been found effective in treating these conditions is particularly important for HIV patients, who may have been taken off statins because of the risk of significant side effects such as neurological disorders, liver damage, and digestive issues.
Recent research published in the International Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Metabolic Syndrome found that by adding bergamot derivatives to patients’ treatments, doctors were able to reduce the dose of statin drugs and yet achieve greater success in lowering cholesterol levels and improving metabolic health.
The studies were supported in part by Australia’s Nathealth Solutions and utilized the bergamot formulation available under that company’s brand name, BergaMet (38 percent bergamot polyphenol fraction/BPF). Other dosages and strengths may not be as effective.
At the 2014 annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterologists, another researcher, Dr. James Ehrlich, presented data (published in Advances in Biological Chemistry) that showed BergaMet effective in improving liver structure and function in patients with both metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease. “BergaMet’s effect on this potentially dangerous liver condition is unmatched by any drug or supplement,” said Ehrlich, who serves on Nathealth Solutions’ medical advisory board. “Since there are no drugs approved for the epidemic of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and our results with BergaMet are so important, we are planning to proceed through rigorous FDA trials to create a drug from our patented extract of bergamot.”
Capitalizing on the results of these studies, expect to see numerous supplements flood the market featuring bergamot alone or with other ingredients. For example, Bergamot Cholesterol Support, a new product from Reserveage Nutrition LLC of Gainesville, Fla., “combines the citrus extract with resveratrol, an antioxidant derived from grapes and Japanese knotweed,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “The company hasn’t studied the combination, but ‘logically it would make sense’ that the two would work well together, says Rob Maru, the company’s chief innovation officer.”
Keep in mind, though, as David Frid, a staff physician in the section of preventive cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic told the Journal: “If you want to try it, you need to be aware that we don’t really know its side effects.”