Cardiovascular well-being: A contemporary challenge

A standardised bergamot extract may provide a natural source of heart health benefits

Cardiovascular well-being is one of the most significant aspects of public health that medical authorities have to manage. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide and represent a huge drain on public health expenditure.

They take the lives of 17.7 million people every year, accounting for 31% of all global deaths. By 2030, almost 23.6 million people will die from CVDs, mainly from heart disease and stroke. The main causes of these diseases — which manifest themselves primarily as heart attacks and strokes — are tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol.1

Among the causative factors of CVDs are high levels of serum cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), which are often associated with an increased incidence of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

The Heart Association’s suggestions regarding heart health include not smoking, managing blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure and diabetes, being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and enjoying a variety of nutritional foods.2 As for diet, there are several scientific studies that support a strong correlation between diets that are rich in flavonoids and cardiovascular risk reduction.3

Bergamot: nature’s cardiovascular gift

Among the world of medicinal plants, bergamot has been proven to be very effective in lowering LDL cholesterol, increasing high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) and lowering both triglyceride levels and blood sugar.

Also known as “green gold,” its unique composition offers benefits in terms of antioxidant, hypoglycaemic and hypolipidemic activity, producing positive effects in modulating metabolic syndrome and promoting cardiovascular well-being, thanks to its cholesterol- and lipid-lowering activity.

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso et Poiteau) is a small tree belonging to the Rutaceae family (sub-family Esperidea) and is defined as a natural hybrid of bitter orange (Citrus aurantium L.) and lemon (Citrus limon [L.] Burm. f.). The plant has big leaves, similar to those of lemon, blossoms during the winter and produces white flowers followed by orange-size round yellow fruit.

Bergamot has been known in the Mediterranean area for several centuries but, currently, Italian bergamot production is limited to the south of the country.

Although the phytochemical profile of bergamot fruit in the form of juice and derived extracts has been studied to a limited extent in recent years, the scientific community is now investigating its marked antioxidant activity and the interesting nutraceutical potential of bergamot juice — derived from its characteristic natural polyphenol profile — specifically albedo and flavedo — and its high percentage (almost 80%) of flavonoids.4

A truly effective bergamot extract

Bergamot polyphenols are normally characterised by poor solubility in both water and organic solvents. To meet the requirements of a highly standardised and genuine bergamot extract with excellent phytochemical properties and superior bioavailability, Indena developed VAZGUARD using the “Nature as Measure” biomimetic principle and the company’s proprietary Phytosome delivery system to optimise the biological absorption of bergamot polyphenols.

VAZGUARD is standardised to contain 11–19% total bergamot flavanones by HPLC and is supported by human studies that support its safety and efficacy profile.5 VAZGUARD has been shown to be able to effectively maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by modulating total cholesterol (tChol), LDLs, triglycerides (TG), HDLs (HDL) and blood glucose after a 30-day treatment.

A double blind, randomised, placebo-controlled human study has been done to verify the effects of VAZGUARD on the absorption of lipids and sugars. This study investigated the activity of 1000 mg of the extract — administered daily for 30 days — to show that the product is safe and highly effective.6

The biomimetic principle

Biomimetics involves studying the science of nature and natural phenomena to understand their underlying mechanisms, to examine the formation, structure or function of biologically produced substances and materials, imitate them and apply those processes and concepts to solve human problems in engineering and medicine, for example.

The term “biomimetics” originates from the Greek words “bios” (life) and “mimesis” (to imitate); yet, its definition is not as simple as just those two words. More specifically, biomimetics is a creative form of technology that uses or imitates nature to improve human lives.

In biomimetics, nature is the measure and the standard used to judge appropriateness, sustainability and the formal, strategic and ethical correctness of technological products and innovations. The central idea is that nature, by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are dealing with.

The concept can be explained as “innovation inspired by nature” and “Nature as Measure” represents the very notion of biomimetics in literature and its philosophical origins. The search for a biomimetic approach to optimise the absorption of natural active compounds and retain their inherent profile has been pioneered by Indena and the development of the Phytosome delivery system.

True bioavailability

Botanical extracts and natural compounds, despite having an important role to play in the protection and maintenance of human health and well-being, often suffer from poor water solubility and limited intestinal absorption.

For optimal bioabsorption, natural products must display a good balance between hydrophilicity (to dissolve in gastrointestinal fluids) and lipophilicity (to cross the lipid membranes of the cell wall).

Indena has developed some of the most innovative products and technologies on the market to optimise the bioabsorption of selected botanicals. Phytosome, the company’s 100% food-grade biomimetic delivery system, is the result of in-depth knowledge and a long history of product and process research.

The system is able to retain the original properties of natural products according to the biomimetic principle of Nature as Measure, without involving new chemical derivatives or entities, pharmacological adjuvants or the structural modification of ingredients. In a continuous process of evolution and innovation, every Phytosome is specifically designed to optimise the bioabsorption of a selected botanical.

Quality botanical extracts

Edible plants are an important source of valuable substances that can be used to maintain our overall well-being, such as bergamot and its effects on the cardiovascular system. That’s why demand for natural and botanical products has been growing in recent years, together with a stronger focus — both from consumers and manufacturers — on the available evidence to support new ingredients in terms of benefits and safety.

As a consequence, to qualify a valid nutraceutical option, plant derivatives have to be compliant with rigorous requirements of quality, standardisation, safety, bioavailability, clinical tolerability and efficacy.

Indena guarantees the quality and standardisation of the composition of its extracts using a process based on more than 30 control steps (from raw material to finished product). The system enables the company to guarantee the safety, consistency and traceability of each product batch.

Product quality is monitored throughout production to comply with rigorous good agricultural and collection practices (GACPs) and good manufacturing practices (GMPs), as well as observing hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP) protocols. A further tool in Indena’s quality toolbox is the introduction of DNA barcoding to verify and ensure the authenticity of the botanical raw material.


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  3. A.R. Cappello, et al., “Bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso) Flavonoids and Their Potential Benefits in Human Hyperlipidemia and Atherosclerosis: An Overview,” Mini Rev. Med. Chem. 16(8), 619–629 (2016).
  4. A. Rapisarda and M.P. Germanò, “Citrus bergamia Risso and Poiteau Botanical Classification, Morphology and Anatomy,” in G. Dugo and I. Bonaccorsi (Eds.), Citrus Bergamia: Bergamot and Its Derivatives (CCR Press, Boca Raton, FL, US, 2013), pp 592.
  5. C. Formisano, et al., J. Agric. Food Chem. 67, 3159–3167 (2019).
  6. V. Mollace, et al., Endocr. Metab. Immune Disord. Drug Targets 19(2), 136–143 (2019).