LCHM Fall 2017 - 16

FEATURE

GRAPEFRUIT:
FRIEND OR FOE?
A Pharmacist's Perspective

BY KRISTIN MOTELY, PharmD, AND REBECCA VAYALUMKAL,
STUDENT PHARMACIST, UNIVERSITY OF THE SCIENCES AND
PHILADELPHIA COLLEGE OF PHARMACY

THE GOOD
Grapefruit, a popular citrus fruit, is both delicious in taste and offers
many health benefits. The United States is one of the largest suppliers of
grapefruit worldwide, producing over 60 percent of the supply. It is an
abundant source of vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber. This
widely popular fruit is known for its potential benefits such as weight loss
and cholesterol reduction. Fresh grapefruit is available from California
and Arizona in many colors such as red, pink, white, and golden. Red
grapefruit is known as the healthiest because it has the highest amount of
antioxidants which help fight certain cancers like prostate and esophageal.
Additionally, grapefruit extract was found to be effective against certain
bacteria when treating urinary tract infections.

effects. One reason is because a substance in grapefruit blocks the ability of
certain medications to break down in the body. If the medication cannot
properly break down, its levels can build up. This leads to unwanted
side effects of that medication. On the other hand, fresh grapefruit and
grapefruit juice also contain a substance that blocks certain medications
from working. Some people try to avoid these drug interactions by eating
grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice several hours before or after their
medication. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
even drinking grapefruit juice several hours before or after taking the
medicine might still be dangerous. Therefore, the best way to avoid side
effects is to limit grapefruit juice or fresh grapefruit consumption while
taking certain medications.

According to the American Heart Association, grapefruit can also lower
risk of stroke in women and improves blood pressure and overall heart
health. Red grapefruit has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, grapefruit has high contents of water and fiber which promotes digestive system health and prevents constipation. The vitamin C
component is beneficial to the skin and can lower the risk for asthma. All
in all, this fruit is a real winner and offers many health benefits. However,
it is important to realize that grapefruit has an ugly side; it causes many
dangerous drug interactions.

When grapefruit blocks the drugs listed in the table above from breaking
down in the body, the increased drug level can cause serious health problems
with the heart, muscles, and kidney.

THE BAD
There are more 80 drugs that can interact with fresh grapefruit or
grapefruit juice in general, and over 40 drugs that cause very serious adverse
16 Lehigh County Health & Medicine | FALL 2017

When statin medications for cholesterol cannot break down, this causes
liver damage and destroys the muscle tissues which injures the kidneys.
Another example is heart complications that can occur when taking
drugs that regulate heart rhythm, such as amiodarone, and certain cancer
drugs. It causes a change in the rhythm of the heartbeat, which can be very
dangerous and can lead to serious complications. Lastly, kidney damage can
occur with immunosuppressant drugs, such as cyclosporine or tacrolimus.



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