If Earl Grey tea is known for anything other than its noble name, it's the distinct smell of bergamot.
That's an orange grown in the Mediterranean, especially the Calabria region of southern Italy, and new research shows it can do so much more than add fragrance to a cup of tea.
In fact, this stuff is nothing short of a citrus miracle – because one month of bergamot extract can help slash your cholesterol levels, cut your blood sugar down to size, and even help you to lose weight.
Go brew your own cup of Earl Grey while I break this one down.
More than 200 Italian patients with a history of high cholesterol were given a bergamot extract from Australia called BergaMet. After just one month, their LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels plunged by 39 percent while their HDL ("good") cholesterol levels shot up by 41 percent.
The bergamot supplement appears to work a little like statins in that it blocks the enzyme that creates cholesterol. But since it uses a different mechanism, it doesn't appear to cause any of the notorious statin side effects like muscle pain and liver damage.
That alone should be enough to make bergamot smell even better than it does already – but that's not all it did: The patients in the study also saw a 22 percent reduction in their blood sugar levels, which could help reduce their risk of metabolic syndrome and even diabetes.
And for the icing on the cake, another study under way in Australia finds it may even help people to lose weight. One badly obese patient taking part in that one lost nearly 30 pounds in the first month alone.
The "catch" here is that cup of tea you're sipping on is a good start, but it won't come close to matching the levels given to patients in the new studies. You can find bergamot extract here and there, but they're not all that popular yet – and many of them are geared towards aromatherapy and shouldn't be ingested.
So if you want to give this stuff a try, speak to a naturopathic physician about the best way to get it first.
And go ahead and brew that cup of tea anyway. It certainly can't hurt – and it tastes great, too.