Can citrus bergamot help control cholesterol?

Q: I’d like to know about using citrus bergamot to lower cholesterol. It seems to work. Are there side effects?

A: Bergamot is a citrus fruit (Citrus bergamia) native to southern Italy. Over the past decade or so, scientists have published numerous studies indicating that polyphenol-rich bergamot extract can lower total and LDL cholesterol levels (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2020).

Some trials also show benefits in lowering triglycerides and raising HDL cholesterol. Bergamot compounds act on lipids through different pathways than statins (Nutrients, Sept. 10, 2021).

Consequently, this natural product may be an option for people who don’t do well on statins. In a randomized controlled trial, a combination of bergamot and artichoke extract lowered blood lipids significantly better than placebo (Nutrients, Dec. 27, 2021).

There are few reports of side effects, although in one study some volunteers experienced heartburn (Integrative Food, Nutrition and Metabolism, March 2019).

In laboratory research, scientists found that bergamot oil might be phototoxic (Central European Journal of Public Health, September 2016). That is, tissues exposed to bergamot might be especially susceptible to damage from UV light.

You can learn more about lowering blood lipids with and without statins in our eGuide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health. This online resource is available under the Health eGuides tab at

Q: Lots of folks have difficulties trying to stop taking PPIs for heartburn. It seems their heartburn comes back even stronger.

I succeeded by drinking psyllium at bedtime. It seems to form a jelly ball in your stomach that keeps the acid from getting up into your esophagus at night.

It doesn’t taste very good, so I mix it with an envelope of Emergen-C. I whip them together with water and chug the combo down fast. Otherwise, I need a spoon! I no longer take PPIs, and I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with my throat on fire!

A: Most people think of psyllium as a laxative. This soluble fiber is made from the seeds of Plantago ovata and is sold under brand names like Metamucil. When the fiber dissolves in water, it forms a gel-like blob.

This natural product is useful not only for relieving constipation but also against diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Moreover, regular use can help reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

We were fascinated with your suggestion that psyllium can help control heartburn. One small study showed that 5 grams of psyllium three times a day significantly reduced heartburn (World Journal of Gastroenterology, June 7, 2018). Be sure to take it with adequate water, or it could cause blockage.

Q: I want to caution people who use “natural” crystal deodorant stones. I heard they may contain aluminum, so I bought one at a local health food store, took it to an environmental testing lab, and had it tested for aluminum. The lab results were that it contained over 70% aluminum. That’s more aluminum than in some commercial antiperspirants.

A: People who buy crystal deodorant “stones” often assume they are avoiding the aluminum that is found in every antiperspirant. Although such products are natural, they almost always contain alum in the form of potassium aluminum sulfate or ammonium aluminum sulfate.

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