Aging is a universal process that affects all living organisms, including humans. It is characterized by the accumulation of oxidative stress and damage to biological molecules. Researchers are increasingly interested in studying functional foods that are rich in phytochemicals and have the potential to counteract age-related changes and mitigate oxidative stress. Bergamot, a small tree primarily cultivated in Calabria, Italy, has recently gained attention for its potential anti-aging properties.
While bergamot essential oil has been widely used, researchers are now exploring the pulp and juice of bergamot fruits for their beneficial effects. These include cholesterol reduction, antioxidant activity, and anti-inflammatory properties. By studying the potential of bergamot by-products, scientists hope to not only reduce disposal costs but also discover a rich source of nutraceuticals.
Human red blood cells (RBCs) are vital for oxygen transport in the body, but their function declines with age due to oxidative stress and damage to cellular components. Reactive species attack the lipids and proteins in RBCs, leading to lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation, and glycation reactions. These changes contribute to the removal of aged RBCs from circulation. Band 3, a protein in RBCs, plays a crucial role in maintaining anion balance and connecting plasma membrane lipids with cytoskeletal proteins. Hemoglobin, responsible for oxygen transport, also influences the metabolic balance of RBCs. The balance between glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway, essential for RBCs to counteract oxidative insults and maintain their integrity, is disrupted during oxidative stress.
RBCs possess an efficient antioxidant system consisting of non-enzymatic and enzymatic antioxidants. Natural antioxidants, such as polyphenol-rich extracts, have garnered attention for their potential to bolster the body’s antioxidant defenses. Bergamot flavonoid fraction has shown promise as a source of natural antioxidants.
In a recent study, researchers examined the composition of bioactive compounds in bergamot peel and juice extracts. They also assessed their potential protective effects in a model of aging using human RBCs exposed to D-Galactose. The study found that bergamot extracts effectively prevented the production of reactive oxygen species induced by D-Galactose exposure. This resulted in reduced oxidative stress and damage to the RBC plasma membrane. The extracts also preserved the structure and function of band 3 and inhibited the production of glycated hemoglobin. Furthermore, the extracts prevented the upregulation of endogenous antioxidant enzymes and restored the balance between glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway in RBCs. The redox balance in RBCs, as reflected by the ratio of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione, was also preserved by the extracts.
In conclusion, this study highlights the potential of bergamot peel and juice extracts to counteract age-related alterations in RBCs caused by oxidative stress. The bioactive compounds in bergamot extracts protect against oxidative damage to cellular components and preserve the endogenous antioxidant system. This research suggests that bergamot could be a promising functional food for preventing or mitigating age-related RBC dysfunction. Further studies are needed to delve into the mechanisms underlying aging in RBCs and to explore the potential benefits of natural antioxidants like bergamot.
As our understanding of aging mechanisms and the benefits of natural antioxidants continues to expand, there is potential for further research and the development of strategies to promote healthy aging and improve overall well-being. Bergamot and its derivatives may have significant implications for the prevention and treatment of aging-related health issues.