This week on the podcast, James sits down with Dr. Vincenzo Mollace, a leading researcher for a particular compound in a citrus Mediterranean fruit called bergamot. Dr. Mollace talks about the specific types of patients who would benefit from using bergamot. He also talks about the unique properties of bergamot and the antioxidant benefits it has as a natural defense.

Highlights include:

  • Comparing long-term bergamot use with statin use
  • Dr. Mollace’s research on bergamot, and how practitioners can consider implementing it in their protocols
  • What role bergamot can play in the re-invention of chronic disease
  • And so much more!

Bergamot: The Missing Key for Mediterranean Health

James Maskell: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. This week, we speak to Dr. Vincenzo Mollace. He is one of the leading researchers around one particular compound, a bergamot orange, which is a citrus fruit that is found mainly in the Mediterranean area. Super interesting podcast if you want to learn about hyperlipidemia, things to do with non-acute fatty liver disease. We also talked about the potential for in our Year of Reinvention, what it would take to upregulate our own immune barriers. Really interesting topic; very interesting fruit. Was a wonderful 20 minutes—enjoy!

So a warm welcome to the podcast, Dr. Vincenzo Mollace. Welcome, Doctor.

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Hello, good afternoon, thank you very much for inviting me.

James Maskell: We’re very excited to continue learning about some of the most innovative compounds in natural medicine. And bergamot is certainly something that has caught the eye of people in America because of some of the properties in some of your research. So let’s start at the beginning. How did you get interested in bergamot?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Well, as you probably know, bergamot represents a fruit which is included in the so-called Mediterranean diet. You know, that Mediterranean diet has been accepted for the prevention of cardiovascular disease by European Society of Cardiology, and also by the American Heart Society. It represents one of the major points for the lifestyle changes, which are required for cardiovascular prevention.

And consuming bergamot is a solid point in the traditional medicine of Columbia region. All the practitioner, for instance, use bergamot derivatives to improve blood circulation, to reduce fever and pain and to combat infectious disease. So based on all those information, so we started working on the therapeutic properties of this fruit more than 20 years ago; in order to understand the, we trial the crucial active ingredients, which are relevant in the bergamot fruit. And also in order to display, which are the pharmaceutical properties and to develop bergamot extracts to be used in a nutraceutical final product. So this is a little bit the short story of our interest in this field.

James Maskell: When you first started to design the experiments, how did you decide kind of what issues to look after and what compounds inside the fruit?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Well, the traditional medicine in central Italy suggested the best pathway in order to follow, and to obtain the most relevant results. First of all, we started working in animal models of hyperlipidemia and especially the dieting use of hyperlipidemia. And we have seen that the bergamot polyphenolic fraction and extract was able to reduce the bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and also to improve the good cholesterol, which is unusual. And then we moved it to clinical trials, which have been carried out as multicentric trials, randomized and placebo controlled. And in patients, we have seen that the major target, all of this so-called metabolic syndrome, which is an overweight hyperlipidemia type two diabetes and moderate hypertension are counteracted by using and consuming bergamot fruit and bergamot polyphenolic extract.

In addition, we have seen that the endemic dimension of the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the measure targets for the use of Bergamot polyphenols, and you know that this is consistent in the impact in the cardiometabolic risk, which can be found in industrialized countries. So this is the basis for the research which has been carried out, in both animal models and in patients.

James Maskell: What is the mechanism by which it has that effect?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Well, polyphenols are known to be a consistent antioxidant compounds, and the bergamot fruit is senior source for antioxidants which are belonging to the natural family of polyphenols; especially naringenin, neohesperidin are, ten times more represented in the bergamot compared to the other citrus species. In addition, we discover that bergamot contains glycosylated polyphenols, which are able to inhibit the endogenous production of bad cholesterol.

So based on these unique properties, we study the mechanism of action, which is based mainly on the reduction in the absorption of cholesterol, especially in fat rich diet. And the other activity is based on improvement of the ability of the liver to release large lipoproteins and to reduce the small dense lipoproteins, which are pro-atherogenic. And the other one that we observed a significant reduction in the indulgence production of cholesterol, with a mechanism which is starting like, so it is similar to the one which is produced by the most popular drugs counteracting hypercholesterolemia and especially the statins.

James Maskell: Yeah, that’s, that’s really interesting. So let’s talk about statins for a moment because obviously, there’s a lot of research. There’s also a lot of, issues with the downstream, overuse of statins. I know that it’s a similar pathway that these drugs are working on, to Bergamot. How would you compare and contrast sort of long-term statin use versus long-term Bergamot use?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Statins obviously represented the most famous and most efficient drug able to reduce cholesterol in high-risk patients. However, you have a mass of subjects, which are not high risk in which the level of reduction is a 45 to 40%. We can access this target by means of bergamot extract, which is the most powerful antioxidants among the citrus species, but also in comparison with the other natural products. We studied the comparison of the effect of bergamot polyphenols compared to the effect of statins. And we have seen that the glycerides and the increase of good cholesterol is one of the measure peculiarities, you can find when using bergamot polyphenols compared to statins. So we believe that you cannot substitute statins, but you can reduce the concentration of statins via the supplementation with bergamot polyphenols.

James Maskell: Are there any like downside risks of taking bergamot long-term, or is it more in alignment with the natural processes in the body?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Well, we have studies which have been carried out for more than two years in patients, and in which we have seen that the Bergamot fruit is able to work efficiently without any side effects. We have no one of the effect which have been described for statins, including muscle pain and the increase in the biomarkers for the so-called Rhabdomyolysis. So the rupture of muscles, which is occurring after prolonged use with statins. So we have no one of those side effects.

James Maskell: A number of doctors and practitioners in our community have prescribed red yeast rice, for these kinds of areas, and to help reduce the need for Statins. How do you see the mechanism of action and how those things can work together with Bergamot?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Well, as you probably know, and many of people know, there is a consistent worming at the moment and some troubles when using red yeast rice. And it is known that regulatory authorities expressed the serious warning for use of supplements containing 10 milligrams of monacolin K, which is a two analog of lovastatin, which is a drug, it’s a statin. And we found that the Bergamot extract taking patients showed significant superiority, compared to red yeast rice at the doses lower than 10 milligrams daily. So in addition, Bergamot polyphenols displayed more consistent, widespread benefits, in cardiovascular system with a better safety profile. So we suggest, as an alternative source of anti-oxidants, the Bergamot extract since it is a safer and more efficient.

James Maskell: So for those doctors and practitioners who are listening, from your experience and your research, what are the best patient profiles for bergamot? Like what kinds of conditions?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: We believe that the patients undergoing metabolic syndrome may represent the target for starting at supplementation with bergamot extract. Since metabolic syndrome is a very low increase in cholesterol and triglycerides. However, combined with hyperglycemia and moderate hypertension and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease altogether, there is a clustering of these risk factors, which are all counteracted by bergamot polyphenols. And we published recently the results of these research activity in nature scientific reports, which is very prestigious, too.

James Maskell: That’s great. So where do you see the research going from here? Where do you want to take it in the future?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Well, the oxidative stress is causing many of the disease, which are linked to the damaging cardiovascular system. But we have also inflammatory disorders, which are occurring in extra vascular tissues, which in our opinion may be approached by means of the supplementation with bergamot derivatives. And the last research we published a few days ago, showed also that the immune system is potentiated by the chronic use and supplementation with bergamot-based nutraceuticals. So, so we believe that this in the future may deserve results, which may be useful for, for patients. And also in terms of prevention of specific disease.

James Maskell: Are there any particular, other compounds that you think might be synergistic with bergamot to increase the efficacy and reduce the downside risk?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Well, bergamot may be combined with the many products, which are at the moment…containing active ingredients, which have to be well-defined before using. But in particular, the combination with the wild type artichoke, for instance, or the combination with grape seed extract, or with resveratrol may represent a very good combination in order to produce synergistic responses in protecting the cardiovascular area well, and especially for preventing cardiovascular disease.

James Maskell: Beautiful. So our word for 2021 is reinvention, reinvention of medicine after COVID. So what role do you think bergamot can play, in the re-invention of chronic disease care?

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Well, we are going to publish a very interesting paper in International Journal of Molecular Science, in which we demonstrate, demonstrated that they use for one month of the bergamot extract is able to enhance the salivary biomarkers of regional inflammation, which is the first defense, against viral and bacterial infection; and we have a potentiation of lysozyme, which is three times more in subjects which have been taking Bergamot extract, and that we have an increase in immunoglobulins against viruses. So we believe that the chronic supplementation with Bergamot is able to increase the barriers, the nature of barriers, which are able to counteract viruses. And we believe that in the future also against COVID-19. This may represent another potential source. Obviously, we are not discussing about drugs, but these are products which are useful for potentiated natural defenses.

James Maskell: Beautiful. Well, I think that’s part of the reinvention of medicine is potentiating the natural defense systems.

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: Absolutely. I a few years ago…a professor at my department, a professor with more than 200 patents in the area of novel drugs, which have been discovered that told me that the story of the pharmaceutical chemistries is at the end. We have to rediscover natural medicine and natural products which are not impacting with the organism but are assumed that as a self-product. And I think that, well… The results, which we are obtaining with bergamot and with other active ingredients, natural active ingredients fit very well with this idea.

James Maskell: Absolutely. Well, Doctor, thank you so much for being part of the show.

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: My pleasure.

James Maskell: And thank you for all of your work and research. We’ll do our best to get the word out to clinicians about bergamot and thank you so much for being part of the show. And we’ll see you again next time.

Dr. Vincenzo Mollace: You’re welcome. Thank you very much. Bye.

James Maskell: This has been the Evolution of Medicine podcast. I’m your host James Maskell and we’ll see you next time.

Thanks for listening to the evolution of medicine podcast. Please share this with colleagues who need to hear it. Thanks so much to our sponsors, the lifestyle matrix resource center. This podcast is really possible because of them. Please visit goevomed.com/lmrc to find out more about their clinical tools like the group visit toolkit. That’s goevomed.com/lmrc. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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