Reacts With Other Drugs
Grapefruit has many health benefits which is why nutritionists recommend having it regularly as part of your diet. However, the notoriety of grapefruits is largely to do with how they react with certain medications.
- Statins: This class of drugs is prescribed by doctors to help prevent strokes and heart attacks by lowering cholesterol levels in the body. Specific statins that react with grapefruit include simvastatin and atorvastatin
- Nifedipine: It is used to treat high blood pressure and angina (chest pain) and having it with grapefruit could result in increased absorption.
- Cyclosporine: This drug is an immunosuppressant and is usually prescribed to patients who have undergone organ transplant. Research has shown that grapefruit juice inhibits the metabolism of cyclosporine for a brief period after having the drug.
- Buspirone: It is used to treat symptoms of anxiety, such as fear, tension, irritability, and dizziness. Having grapefruit juice considerably increases buspirone concentrations.
- Amiodarone: This drug is an antiarrhythmic medication used to treat and prevent several of types of irregular heartbeats. Just a single glass of grapefruit juice has been found to increase the concentration of this drug.
- Fexofenadine: This drug is an antihistamine used in the treatment of allergy symptoms, such as hay fever, nasal congestion, and urticaria. While grapefruit makes other drugs more potent, in the case of fexofenadine, it decreases the absorption making the drug less effective.
Since grapefruit interferes with the metabolic process of drug absorption, its side effects are usually limited to drugs taken orally. Also, you might not have to give up grapefruit just yet as it does not react with all the drugs in a given category. If you’re taking drugs that fall under any of the above categories, talk to your doctor about alternatives.
May Increase Risk Of Breast Cancer
There is no direct answer to whether grapefruit, in general, can increase or decrease the probability of developing breast cancer. While a 2007 research paper published in the British Journal of Cancer shows that grapefruit increases the chances of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, there is also evidence that flavonoids found in grapefruit have anticancer properties and are effective at stopping breast cancer cells from growing and spreading.
Could Increase Probability Of Kidney Stones
The debate is still on about whether grapefruit can cause kidney stones or help reduce the risk. Kidney stones are formed when dissolved minerals form crystals along the inner lining of the kidneys. These crystals are usually made up of calcium oxalate but may also contain other compound deposits.
A 6-year study done on men between the age of 40 and 75 years found that having 8 ounces of grapefruit juice every day increased the risk of kidney stones by about 37%. However, a short-term study found that having grapefruit juice regularly helped in flushing out citrates, calcium, and magnesium, thus reducing the risk of stone formation.
Considering both studies, if you have a history of kidney stones or medical conditions which increase the risk of stone formation, it’s best to have grapefruit in moderation and not make it a part of your daily diet. Medical conditions that increase the probability of kidney stones include
- Urinary tract infections
- Renal tubular acidosis
- High Blood Pressure
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis)
Might Trigger Citrus Allergy
Grapefruit belongs to the family of citrus fruits which also include limes, lemons, and oranges. If you are allergic to a particular citrus fruit, it’s highly likely that others too can trigger an allergic reaction. In severe cases, an allergic reaction could cause anaphylaxis, a potentially life‑threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention. Citrus allergy has been reported to orange, mandarin, and grapefruit, but contrary to the name of the allergy, it’s not caused by citric acid.
Safety Tips To Avoid Side Effects Of Grapefruit
- Talk to your doctor about having fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice when you’re on medication. In case you cannot, check for other juices that you need to avoid.
- Read through your patient information sheet or medication guide to check if there is a mention of grapefruit in the list of foods to avoid when taking prescription drugs.
- If you’re taking non-prescription drugs, read the Drug Facts label to find out if you are required to avoid grapefruit or other fruit juices.
- If you have been asked to avoid grapefruit by your doctor, check the labels on fruit juice bottles and flavored drinks to ensure they don’t contain grapefruit.
Other Fruits That Have Similar Side Effects
Furanocoumarins, the compound in grapefruit that’s responsible for drug reactions, is also present in few other fruits belonging to the citrus family. If you have been asked to avoid grapefruit, it’s best to also avoid seville oranges (used to make orange marmalade), tangelos (a cross between tangerines and grapefruit), limes, and pomelos.
Grapefruits are a great food to add to your diet. They are rich in vitamin A and C, potassium, and a host of other beneficial compounds like lycopene (antioxidant) and naringin (flavonoid). As long as you’re careful about not mixing them with certain types of medications, you don’t really have to worry about the side effects.