A cup of Earl Grey tea can lower cholesterol and reduce the chances of heart disease, according to scientists.
The beverage, much favored in Downton Abbey, contains extracts of a fruit called bergamot which scientists believe is a superfood for the heart.
And it could even be as effective as statins, the controversial wonder drugs used to control cholesterol but which can have side effects in patients.
The bergamot is a Mediterranean citrus fruit which gives Earl Grey the distinct taste and smell that has traditionally made it popular with the upper and middle classes.
Now new research claims it contains enzymes known as HMGF (hydroxy methyl glutaryl flavonones) which can treat heart diseases as effectively as statins.
Researchers from Italy’s University of Calabria for the Journal of Functional Foods used concentrations of HMGF on the proteins which cause heart disease and ‘bad’ cholesterol.
They then compared the effects with that of statins used to treat the same proteins and found the bergomot extract with HMGF worked just as well.
Not only did it reduce levels of LDL – so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ which leads to heart disease – but also increased HDL, which doctors call ‘good cholesterol’.
Citrus foods have long been part of the famed ‘Mediterranean diet’ which has been hailed as one of the best ways to avoid heart disease – the biggest killer in the Western world.
“Extract from bergamot – most commonly used in Earl Grey tea – reduced total cholesterol, and LDL levels but there was an increase in HDL levels (good cholesterol). “Therefore a daily supplement of bergamot fruit extract could be very effective for the treatment of high cholesterol.”
Bergamot has long been used in traditional ‘folk’ medicines in the Mediterranean not only as a protection for the heart but also to treat wounds, inflammation and as an antiseptic.
The extracts have even been used in jams, ice cream and perfumes in the region, said the researchers.