Grapefruit Juice and Medication Could Be a Dangerous Combination

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We often bring you word of various safety hazards that could await consumers who aren’t careful.  But one thing that many people might not realize poses a danger is the consumption of grapefruits when also taking certain types of medication.  These findings, although reportedly known for about 20 years, are brought to the foreground once again in a new study found in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

A clinical pharmacologist from the London, Ontario-based Lawson Health Institute Research Center was the lead author on the study.  He and the other researchers believe that grapefruit and other tart citrus items could pose a distinct hazard when eaten in conjunction with certain prescriptions.  This threat is particularly apparent when it comes to people over the age of 45, as this demographic is most likely to both have medications prescribed and to eat grapefruit.  And the risk to people over 70 might be even greater.

The research shows that the juice in grapefruit can actually expose the individual to heightened levels of medication.  It all has to do with furanocoumarins, chemical compounds in grapefruit juice that have the ability to impede the duties of a certain digestive enzyme known as CYP3A4.  This enzyme actually works to prevent toxins from accumulating in the bloodstream in dangerous amounts, and that process also affects many medications.  This means that doctors have to increase dosing appropriately.  But if the furanocoumarins interfere with the enzyme, the individual is suddenly exposed to possibly dangerous doses of a given drug.

Researchers believe that at least 85 drugs could interact poorly with grapefruit juice but that serious hazards could present themselves in only about 43, 26 of which have arrived in just the past four years.  Some of the serious side effects believed to be possible are respiratory failure, kidney problems, and gastric bleeding.  The lead author also believes that 13 of these drugs could result in a fatality if an interaction occurs.

Unfortunately, there’s a possibility that these types of incidents are going underreported across the country, according to the lead author.  He believes that as many as 100 cases might not be adequately reported for every one that is, possibly because the side effects aren’t necessarily being recognized for what they are.  Although warnings are placed with such drugs, he thinks that medical professionals and patients alike are underestimating the danger.  He hopes doctors will ask their patients about their grapefruit consumption before issuing a prescription and that patients will be similarly inquisitive.

A Florida Department of Citrus spokesperson points to the fact that numerous medications don’t interact poorly with citrus and that a doctor should be able to prescribe a healthy alternative if need be.