February is National Grapefruit Month. It is peak season for these luscious pink and ruby beauties. Our local supermarkets are offering specials on Texas grown varieties.
If you haven’t tried a grapefruit in a long time, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that you don’t need to put sugar on one to eat it. Pink and ruby grapefruits have been grown to be sweeter than the pale white cousins that used to be served with a maraschino cherry for breakfast at restaurants.
These rosy citrus are powerhouses of nutrition: Vitamins A and C and potassium along with smaller amounts of B vitamins, calcium and other minerals. The pectin in a grapefruit lowers cholesterol and can help with weight loss. Antioxidants protect against cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration.
For a diabetic, like my Dad, grapefruit and its juice offered a way to get a nutritious citrus fix that’s low glycemic as well as healthy. But, it wasn’t until Dad had that nosebleed that the nurse could not stop, that I found out that grapefruit and certain medications don’t mix.
Compounds in grapefruit ( also Pomelos and Seville oranges, a bitter type used in marmalades) block a liver enzyme from breaking down certain prescription drugs. Without the enzyme, blood levels of these medications increase beyond the recommended dose and can lead to dangerous side effects.
Grapefruit - drug interaction was discovered accidentally in 1989 by researchers who were attempting to measure a drug interaction with ethanol (drinking alcohol). The researchers were using grapefruit juice to mask the taste of the ethanol.
Since then, researchers have discovered a number of drugs that interact with grapefruit. Statin drugs for high cholesterol, antidepressants, an anti-seizure medication, an HIV medication and calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure are some of the major drugs affected by grapefruit. Dad was taking a statin and a calcium channel blocker.
Because he ordered his medications by mail, he would not have talked to a pharmacist about his diet. I know the mail order prescription program sent a lot of informative reading, but I don’t know whether it had any information about grapefruit. (Missing information has been one of the major downsides of long distance caregiving.)
Check Your Meds
So, if you enjoy grapefruit or grapefruit juice, you need to know if your medication is being affected by it. Here is a website written by a licensed pharmacist that allows you to check your medication for grapefruit interaction. You can search for a specific drug or download a complete list of drugs as a PDF (see the right side of the web page.)
If your medication is on the list of drugs that interact with grapefruit, you will want to check with your doctor as soon as possible, particularly if you have experienced side effects. Your doctor may be able to switch you to a different medication or suggest ways to change your regimen so that you aren’t affected by the interaction.
Recently, researchers from the US Department of Agriculture have found that certain mushroom extracts cancel out the effect of grapefruit. But, no one has yet figured out how to make it palatable for people. Grapefruit juice with mushroom mush . . .uh, I think I will pass for now.
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