What's the Deal With Grapefruit?

Dr. Nupur Mehta

If you’ve had a prescription for certain blood pressure medications or medications to reduce cholesterol, you may have seen the warning to not take these drugs with grapefruit. Why is grapefruit to be avoided so specifically and what should you do about it?

Grapefruit and some of its fruity cousins like Seville oranges and pomelos contain a compound called furanocoumarin which can block the activity of a certain enzyme, CYP3A4. This enzyme helps to break down certain medications in the body, affecting the amount that ends up in your bloodstream. If you eat a lot of grapefruit or its juice the enzyme doesn’t do its job, which means that blood levels of these medications can rise, sometimes to a dangerous level.

How much is too much? Interestingly, even small amounts for grapefruit can result in significant changes in drug levels in the blood. For example, one glass of grapefruit juice can reduce the function of the important enzyme by 47 percent! In addition, the effect of the grapefruit can linger in the body for a while, with 1/3 of the compound still detectable24 hours after consuming grapefruit.

So, what if you’re a grapefruit aficionado? Do you have to give it up completely? If you’re taking one of these medications, it’s probably best to not roll the dice and just switch to orange juice. Really can’t live without your grapefruit? Talk to your Heyday team about alternative medications. At Heyday Health, we’re committed to finding the care plan that works for you - including what you like to have for breakfast.

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