Grapefruit: Friend or Foe?

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 04/17/2014

I am always amazed at how frequently someone asks me about the “dangers” of grapefruit juice. I remember learning about the connection between grapefruit and medication back in 1989 when I was a practicing cardiac nurse.

We always warned patients that the seemingly healthy grapefruit could interfere with the medications they were taking, an effect that became well-publicized after being responsible for a number of deaths due to accidental overdosing on medication. It is always so upsetting when something as healthy as adding fresh juice, rich in vitamin C, to the diet is learned to be potentially hazardous.

At least 50 known medications are affected by grapefruit, including those used to treat cancer, depression, pain, impotence, HIV, allergies, the immune system, and various cardiovascular problems. Even Coumadin is on the list.

In some instances, the fruit increases the action of the medication (essentially putting you at risk for overdose). Two of the most common examples of this are calcium channel blockers (used to treat high blood pressure levels, angina, and arrhythmia) and statins (used in reducing cholesterol). In other cases, grapefruit can inhibit absorption of medications.

Dr Sinatra reported about grapefruit and dangerous medication interactions years ago in Heart, Health, & Nutrition. Now, the FDA mandates that drugs undergo testing for reactions with grapefruit, and an appropriate warning label is included with each prescription. Nevertheless, it’s reported that many patients, nurses and doctors aren’t aware of the interactions or the potential serious consequences.

The take-home message for you is to read the labels on any products you take. Be aware of food-drug interactions. They are REAL. If you are taking anything that has a warning about grapefruit on the label, ELIMINATE it from your diet until you can discuss your options with your doctor.

For more information on cardiovascular nutrition, visit www.drsinatra.com.

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