The “Fruity” Way to Lower Cholesterol
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 93 million Americans have cholesterol levels over 200 mg/dL. (This is considered borderline high.) And 29 million have cholesterol higher than 240 mg/dL.
Cholesterol, in and of itself, isn’t bad. In fact, your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to function properly. Cholesterol provides the building blocks for steroid hormones, which include sex hormones, and membranes of all our cells. It enables us to utilize fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins D and E. It also allows us to properly use healthy fats. All these substances are part of the normal, healthy function of our bodies.
High cholesterol, however, can increase the risk of heart disease. Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to fatty deposits in the blood vessels, making it difficult for blood to flow through the arteries.
A Word On Statins
You can see why extremely high cholesterol is considered problematic. It’s such a big problem in the US that cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins are among the top-prescribed medications in this country.
Interestingly, despite their popularity, research shows the long-term benefits of statins are far from impressive. One study found that long-term statin therapy increased cardiovascular disease-free life expectancy by only seven months, and total life expectancy by a mere three months.
The researchers wrote, “The predicted gains in life expectancy we found are generally small…Ideally, communication of personalized outcomes will ultimately result in better clinical outcomes. Improved understanding of potential gains will, however, not necessarily go hand in hand with an improvement in clinical outcomes, because patients could be less likely to choose statin therapy when more information on benefits is provided.”1
In other words, if patients were better informed of the insignificant benefits of long-term statin use compared to the downsides, more people would opt out of prescription meds and perhaps choose more natural ways to lower cholesterol.
After all, statins are serious drugs. They come with a long list of side effects—some minor, but many life-altering:
- Skin rash
- Nausea/vomiting and other digestive issues
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle pain and damage
- Liver damage
- Kidney failure
- Erectile dysfunction
- Neurological and memory problems
- Increased risk of blood sugar problems and type 2 diabetes
Furthermore, statins deplete the body of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)—an antioxidant crucial for the health of your heart and arteries. The body naturally produces less CoQ10 the older we get, and statins worsen the issue. Just 30 days of statin use can decrease CoQ10 levels by up to 50 percent.2
Every person and every health situation is unique. Statin therapy may, in fact, be your best option if your risk of heart disease or heart attack is severe.
But for mild or moderately high cholesterol, given the facts about statins, you may want to consider natural therapies that have fewer side effects and equally effective benefits.
Top of the list is a supplement called bergamot.
Bergamot: An All-Natural Statin?
Bergamot is a bitter citrus fruit native to the Calabria region of Italy. It resembles an orange (though it’s more yellow in color) and tastes similar to a lemon. The essential oil in bergamot peel is used for perfumes and in aromatherapy, but the fruit is what’s most prized for its medicinal properties.
The juice of this fruit contains large amounts of several different polyphenols—antioxidant compounds in plants with tremendous health and healing benefits. When concentrated and in supplement form, the effects of bergamot on cholesterol are impressive. Bergamot has been shown to lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, raise protective HDL cholesterol, and improve arterial functioning.
Studies show bergamot lowers LDL almost as effectively as statins—but with the added benefit of increasing HDL cholesterol, which statins can’t do. The boost in HDL is especially important because this form of cholesterol helps to escort “bad” LDL out of the arteries to the liver, where it is then excreted. So, the higher your HDL, the better.
In one study of 77 patients with high LDL and triglycerides, 15 received placebo, 16 received 10 mg statin, another 16 received 20 mg statin, 15 took 1,000 mg bergamot; and the remaining 15 took 1,000 mg bergamot plus 10 mg statin. The study lasted 30 days.
Both the statins and the bergamot resulted in reduced total cholesterol, LDL, and LDL-to-HDL ratio. Cholesterol levels dropped by 30%—from an average 278 mg/dL to 191 mg/dL. 3
In another study involving 80 participants with moderately high cholesterol, those taking bergamot experienced a decrease in total cholesterol from 255 mg/dL to 224 mg/dL. LDL dropped from 159 mg/dL to 132 mg/dL, and triglycerides from 159 mg/dL to 133 mg/dL. Even better, HDL went up from 50 mg/dL to 54 mg/dL. 4
And, in a 2020 systematic review that included 12 studies, 75% showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol (between 12.3–31.3% reduction), triglycerides (7.6–40.8% reduction), and LDL (11.5–39.5% reduction). Eight of the 12 also reported an increase in HDL.5
How Does Bergamot Work?
How does bergamot achieve such remarkable results? Well, it first helps to know how statins work.
Statins inhibit HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in cholesterol production. Statins bind to the sites where HMG-CoA normally goes. This prevents the next step in the cholesterol creation process.
Bergamot works in a similar manner. It actually contains two molecules (neohesperidin and naringin) that are structurally similar to statins. So, it targets the same pathways as statins, but in a gentler manner.
At the same time, bergamot does not affect CoQ10 production. As you recall, the depletion of CoQ10 is one of the biggest downsides of statins—and a main cause of many of the worst side effects like fatigue and muscle pain.
How to Take Bergamot
When shopping for bergamot, be sure to look for a standardized extract, such as Bergavit®, found in Newport Natural Health’s Cholesterol Support.
Newport Natural Health provides high-quality products with ingredients in dosages scientifically proven to be successful. You can also rest assured that Newport Natural Health thoroughly tests all products for heavy metals and other contaminants. So, you’re taking not only an effective, but exceptionally safe supplement.
The recommended daily dose of bergamot is between 500–1,000 mg, in divided doses and taken just before eating. Retest your cholesterol levels after about three months and reduce the dosage if your levels have improved.
- Ferket B, et al. Personalized Prediction of Lifetime Benefits with Statin Therapy for Asymptomatic Individuals: A Modeling Study. PLoS Med. 2012 Dec; 9(12): e1001361.
- Rundek T, et al. Atorvastatin decreases the coenzyme Q10 level in the blood of patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Arch Neurol. 2004 Jun;61(6):889-92.
- Gliozzi M, et al. Bergamot polyphenolic fraction enhances rosuvastatin-induced effect on LDL-cholesterol, LOX-1 expression and protein kinase B phosphorylation in patients with hyperlipidemia. Int J Cardiol. 2013 Dec 10;170(2):140-5.
- Toth P, et al. Bergamot Reduces Plasma Lipids, Atherogenic Small Dense LDL, and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Subjects with Moderate Hypercholesterolemia: A 6 Months Prospective Study. Front Pharmacol. 2016 Jan 6;6:299.
- Lamiquiz-Monea I, et al. Effect of bergamot on lipid profile in humans: a systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(18):3133-43.