What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is naturally produced by your body and is found in your diet in eggs and animal products that are rich in fat, particularly saturated fats, such as meats and full-fat dairy foods.
Cholesterol is essential for many of your body’s metabolic processes, including the production of hormones (oestrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones) and vitamin D, and is necessary for the structure of cell membranes, to produce bile acid for healthy fat digestion, metabolism of other fat-soluble vitamins and to insulate nerve fibres. It is not necessary to consume cholesterol in the diet as your body can produce sufficient cholesterol to meet its needs.
‘Good’ vs ‘bad’ cholesterol
Cholesterol is transported around your body in the blood attached to lipoproteins. There are two main types of lipoproteins: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL):
- LDL (considered ‘bad’ cholesterol) carries most of the cholesterol that is delivered to cells
- HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) helps remove excess cholesterol out of the cells, including cells in the arteries
Too much LDL in the bloodstream can lead to the development of fatty deposits in the arteries, causing narrowing of the blood vessels. Cholesterol doesn’t cause any immediate symptoms, and it’s usually only when damage has been done over a period of time that issues related to cholesterol are discovered, usually associated with cardiovascular health. For good health, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance between good and bad cholesterol.
Cholesterol and inflammation
When cholesterol occurs in the bloodstream, excess LDL begins to seep into the inner wall of the artery. This triggers an inflammatory response, which accelerates the accumulation of cholesterol in the artery wall and in turn, produces higher levels of inflammation. Over time, the deposited cholesterol hardens into a plaque, which may rupture and lead to adverse cardiovascular events.
Bergamot and cholesterol health
Bergamot contains a unique composition of citrus flavonoids and has the highest concentration of flavonoids compared to other citrus fruits. Bergamot maintains healthy cholesterol and supports healthy cardiovascular system function. Some of these flavonoids are potent antioxidants that help to reduce cholesterol oxidation and free radical damage to cells. The exact mechanism of Bergamot’s action is not clear, however, it is likely due to multiple mechanisms.