I Stopped Taking Bergamot And Here’s What Happened To My Cholesterol

Bergamot 1

Brief Summary

I had normal cholesterol, went low carb, and then ketogenic, and saw that my cholesterol started to go crazy.  I tried a host of things to bring it down including raising my carbs and taking various supplements to no effect.  I finally saw a lipidologist, did some more research, and came up with a 12 point gameplan which surprisingly worked!

I’ve received some fair criticism for doing things in this manner because I essentially added so many variables at once which can make it hard to conclude anything at all.  Ash Simmonds probably said things best in the comments here:

You changed too many things at once to be able to conclude anything meaningful whatsoever here.

What if all of this occurred simply because you changed your mouthwash, and the rest was a waste of time?

(He wasn’t the only one btw).

I have to disagree because the one thing we DO know is that these 12 changes worked, we just can’t conclude WHICH of these changes or combination of changes did the trick.  High sensitivity, low specificity.

The next step for me was to slowly peel away each of these changes and reassess my labs to see what, if any effects there are.  Also this would make my life easier since it’s one less pill or powder to take.

Bergamot was the first supplement I subtracted.

Why Bergamot?

In My Anti-Cholesterol Gameplan post I wrote:

This was another supplement recommended by my lipidologist.  She explained that this may help with my cholesterol hypersynthesis because its mechanism of action is similar to that of statins but without the side effects.

In my research, it seems like this is a relatively new substance with one of the main articles touting this coming from the Wall Street Journal in January 2015 citing a study showing:

In a month long study of 77 patients published in 2013 in the International Journal of Cardiology, 1000 mg daily of bergamot extract lowered cholesterol from an average of 278 mg/dl to 191.

Here is a link to the abstract of the study itself.  As opposed to Berberine, there really isn’t much data out there, and we still don’t know what the exact mechanism of action is and what the side effects are.

Since I was willing to do anything to bring down my LDL-P, I figured a 30 day trial with this should be ok.

I went with HP LifeScience Citrus Bergamot because their website looked reputable to me… which probably isn’t the best criteria to use.

Because of the lack of research and information on the mechanism of action and side effect profile, this was also the supplement I felt least comfortable taking, and therefore was the first one I wanted to remove.

What Happened to My Cholesterol?

Bergamot 2

Bergamot 3

Here’s how it looks in relation to all my prior tests:

Bergamot 4

LDL-P: Things took a turn for the worse with a bump up to 1817 from 1489, for a rise in 330 points

Small LDL-P: This got worse also with a rise to 886 from the almost normal 592.

LDL-C: Interestingly this didn’t change much, only going up to 135 from 125.  From the looks of things my LDL-P and LDL-C are now moving towards a more discordant pattern.

Triglycerides: Stable at 69, indicating that despite eating more carbs, I’m still not eating enough to raise my trigs.

HDL-C: Slight improvement, rising to 56 from 47.  I’m not reading too much into this because this is within the normal range my HDL stays as you can see from the chart.  In my case this is probably genetic more than anything, since nothing I do really moves the needle significantly.

HbA1c: When the lipidologist checked my HbA1c in July it had bounced up to 5.9 from being rock solid at 5.7 for the past two years, which made me worry a little.  It’s back down to 5.7 now, despite all the changes I’ve made, including increasing my carb intake.  This makes me think that the 5.9 value was likely due to lab variation.  I normally get my blood tests through Labcorp, but the blood tests done with my lipidolologist went through her lab, Health Diagnostic Laboratory.

FINAL THOUGHTS

After I stopped taking Bergamot, it looks like both my LDL-P and Small LDL-P increased and got worse.  Superficially, this appears as if Bergamot is responsible for this change, but I’m not so sure this is an accurate conclusion that can be drawn.

Another potential explanation is simple variation.  It’s been shown that cholesterol numbers can vary 10-20% for no reason at all, so this may account for my numbers.

This isn’t to say that Bergamot ISN’T responsible, it’s just to say that I can’t say that it 100% IS responsible.

In any case, it’s an interesting development and will be something to keep an eye on.

The next component of my Anti-Cholesterol Gameplan I’ll be removing is bionic fiber.  I’ll be continuing with:

  1. Reduce saturated fat intake
  2. Eat more beans
  3. Eat low carb but not ketogenic
  4. Reduce coffee consumption
  5. Probiotics including VSL#3, Prescript Assist, and Primadophilus Reuteri.
    1. (Here’s my recent review of VSL#3)
  6. Berberine
  7. Omega 3
  8. Vitamins and Minerals (Athletic Greens, Vitamins D+K, Magnesium Threonate)
  9. Optimize Oral Hygiene
    1. Brushing at my gum line with my Oral B electric brush
    2. Using Oxyfresh Mouthwash
    3. Flossing
    4. Brushing with these angled go between brushes
  10. Maintain exercise (BJJ 4-5x per week, weight lift 1-2x per week).

You may have noticed that I’ve stopped updating my food on MyFitnessPal.  I’ve been getting lazy about doing this because my diet hasn’t really changed these past few months and I found having to input info after every meal starting to get tedious.  I might start it back up later on, but I’m enjoying this bit of freedom for the time being.

*Image found here

14 Responses to I Stopped Taking Bergamot And Here’s What Happened To My Cholesterol

  1. billharis says:

    Good blog. How does removing fiber next answer the question about Bergamot? If your numbers go up again, now you have two variables in the equation that you are trying to figure out.

    I thought the logical thing to do is to isolate it to one variable, good first selection, and add it back in and re-evaluate.

    So what is your goal for this exercise? Identify the supplement that bettered your numbers or to find a supplement program that continues to maintain and improve your numbers. If you remove a supplement and the numbers change significantly, then you should consider adding the supplement back in, baseline the numbers again, and remove a different supplement.

    Just a thought.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Definitely the right way to approach things. And if everything were perfect, I’d do exactly as you said.

      Few reasons I’m doing this.

      Cost – Paying for monthly supplies of all of this stuff is getting prohibitively expensive, so the more I can eliminate the better.

      Side effects – Haven’t gone into this much, but there are some side effects that I don’t like, which I’ll blog about later.

      Convenience – I’m getting tired of taking so much stuff. It’s really a pain in the ass. I know… not much scientific rigor, but you can imagine that at the end of a long day of work and some BJJ training, having to mix up fiber smoothies and take hand fulls of pills is the last thing I want to do.

      If a followup cholesterol panel goes up, then yeah, I’ll probably have to reintroduce whatever I removed… if it goes down or stays the same, I’ll keep on subtracting.

      In the future I may get to a point where I stop all the supplements altogether and just go back to square one, and add things one by one.

      The scientist in me understands that this completely lacks scientific rigor… but the human inside of me just doesn’t give a crap. So here I am, putzing around somewhere in the middle!

      I’m also cheating. 🙂 I have the followup cholesterol panel from the next step and know what happens after removing the bionic fiber. I just need to get around to writing it up!

      • Bill hairs says:

        Understand and yes very expensive.

        I am following your program specific to fiber (pre/pro) and my numbers has dropped (LDL-P/ApoB) and have follow up test in two weeks. This would be my 60 day test. I do not focus on Cholesterol – my analysis says its all about the particles. The only change in my routine is that my diet has not been that good since the holidays so I am not looking forward to the results. Too many carbs.

        Thanks again and please hurry up writing up the other post… 🙂 🙂

        • BJJ Caveman says:

          I agree, it’s all about the particles.

          I’d love to hear what your 60 day followup is like!

          I’m working on the next post… I’m just a very slow writer!

          • billharis says:

            Follow up note:

            30 day numbers shows incredible drop in LDL and ApoB (21%, 12%). Not a good dietary month and prebiotic consistency. I also took 4 VLS%3 per day the last 2 weeks prior to test. The study you referred to for VLS was using the higher dosage 450B vs. ~110B and this may be attributed to the drop.

            This level of dosage is expensive. Curious what happens when you remove this supplement.

  2. Elaine says:

    BJJ Caveman–what is your homocysteine. I am hearing that is a better marker than cholesterol.

  3. criminal says:

    Yes! Finally someone writes about satiny.

  4. Frank says:

    BJJ Caveman-
    read your blog, great stuff! Same exact happened to me my LDL when thru the roof on the low carb paleo diet(180 ish to 240). I am now trying low fat, beans, and just seafood. I just got tested for the APOE test, think I too am a 3/4.

    Question why do you think your Cholesterol and LDL are not back to your Jan 2010 levels if you are even eating better now versus the SAD of 2010? Has something else changed, weight?

    Thanks!

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Hope your changes work out for you! Keep me posted about how things turn out!

      I’m not sure why they’re not back down to Jan 2010 levels. Back then I was running a lot more, like 2-3 miles per day, so that may have something to do with it.

      My workouts now are less aerobic and more glycolytic.

      It would be interesting to try to add in some more aerobic training into my regimen… the only question is how do I squeeze it into my schedule…

  5. usirish says:

    Quick question – how much bergamot were you taking a day?

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