When you hear “citrus bergamot,” you probably think of…a scented candle? Perhaps a DIY concoction used to clean kitchen counters? But it turns out that citrus bergamot is actually a type of fruit—and when consumed in supplement form, can benefit your health in a number of notable ways. Read on for the facts on this quiet wellness trend.
What is citrus bergamot?
More commonly known as “bergamot,” the citrus bergamot fruit is similar in size to an orange, has a yellow-green skin that resembles a lime, and tastes similar to a lemon, according to Toronto-based naturopathic doctor, Olivia Rose, N.D. It’s native to Italy, growing on small trees found in the Calabria region (in the southwest portion of the boot-shaped country), and has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years.
What are the benefits of citrus bergamot?
Here’s a look at some of the various uses of citrus bergamot and how adding it to your routine could benefit your health.
1. Supports healthy cholesterol
As most of us know, out-of-control cholesterol is not a good thing. Above-normal levels (200 mg/dL) can contribute to heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the CDC. Still, nearly two in five American adults have high cholesterol.
Various studies, including one published in the journal Integrative Food, Nutrition, and Metabolism, have shown that bergamot can offer cholesterol benefits. Bergamot’s positive impact, according to The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N., is thanks to the polyphenols found in it. These compounds, which occur naturally in plant foods, are some of the most abundant antioxidants in our diet and work to protect the body from oxidative stress and the health issues it can lead to, including inflammation, coronary heart disease, and more. One of their many perks? They support balanced cholesterol levels. In fact, research suggests that citrus bergamot promotes both healthy LDL cholesterol levels and total cholesterol levels.
2. Promotes healthy blood sugar
Balanced blood sugar is important for maintaining energy levels and supporting the organ function necessary for avoiding long-term illnesses such as diabetes or kidney disease, per the CDC. “Elevated blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia, occurs when a person consumes too much sugar in their diet, exceeding the body’s ability to process it,” explains Canada-based naturopathic doctor Sarah Connors, N.D. “Luckily, a flavonoid found in citrus bergamot, called naringin, has been shown to promote balanced blood sugar.” Researchers believe that naringin works in the body to improve glucose sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
3. Bolsters liver health
According to the American Heart Association, nearly 25 percent of all adults worldwide have an abnormal buildup of fat in their liver. Some fatty liver disease is caused by excess alcohol intake, but many cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to severe liver damage and even liver failure in later stages, are often missed.
Given the importance of supporting liver health these days, research on how to do so continues to emerge. Interestingly, citrus bergamot shows promise for its ability to support a healthy liver. In fact, some research published in The Journal of Clinical Lipidology suggests that bergamot extract may have notable benefits for this important organ.
4. Boosts mood
Let’s take a quick detour to address another form of citrus bergamot you may be familiar with: its essential oil. According to Blakely, just a few drops of citrus bergamot oil (typically sold as just “bergamot oil“), whether in a diffuser or simply dripped onto your pillow, may help boost your mood when you’re stressed and even help you drift off to sleep.
While the exact mechanism of action here isn’t quite so clear, research suggests that bergamot oil aromatherapy works to manage cortisol levels in the body. In fact, one study found that people who relaxed with bergamot essential oil aromatherapy experienced notable drops in cortisol levels. What’s more, one recent study published in the Journal of Nursing Research on the effects of bergamot oil aromatherapy on women in the year after giving birth, found that it helped alleviate low moods.
How to add citrus bergamot to your routine
If you want to reap bergamot’s cholesterol, blood sugar, and liver benefits, an oral supplement is the way to go. According to The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N., L.D.N., C.P.T., it’s essential to choose a reputable company and a product that provides 500 milligrams of citrus bergamot extract, which should be standardized for polyphenol, flavanone, and flavone content. This ensures you’re getting enough of those beneficial compounds for your supplement to actually have a positive effect, she says.
Because of its impact on blood sugar, just be mindful of taking citrus bergamot in conjunction with any blood sugar medications, Blakely suggests. “Make sure to monitor your blood sugar carefully and inform your doctor of supplement use.” Those with low blood sugar may be best off avoiding bergamot. Otherwise, enjoy the many benefits this interesting citrus fruit has to offer!