Bergamot essential oil (BEO) is well-known for its food preservation activity, as well as anticancer efficacy. However, the poor BEO water solubility and deriving low bioaccessibility have limited its wider applications. The incorporation in nanoemulsions of BEO and its refined fractions was investigated to enhance its dispersibility in water to promote its antimicrobial activity, tested against Escherichia coli, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and its cytotoxicity already at low concentrations. Different nanoemulsion formulations were tested based on food-grade ingredients, which were characterized in terms of hydrodynamic diameter and polydispersity index, and physical stability. The antimicrobial activity against all the tested micro-organisms was observed to be higher for BEO in its initial composition, than the light fraction, richer in d-limonene, ß-pinene, and γ-terpinene, or the heavy fraction, richer in linalyl acetate and linalool. Remarkably, the use of BEO nanoemulsions notably enhanced the antimicrobial activity for all the tested oils. BEO exhibited also a measurable cytotoxic activity against Caco-2 cells, which was also enhanced by the use of the different nanoemulsions tested, in comparison with free oil, which discourages the direct use of BEO nanoemulsions as a food preservative. Conversely, BEO nanoemulsions might find use in therapeutic applications as anticarcinogenic agents.
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