Are you a grapefruit lover? Do you just adore munching on this tangy fruit in the morning or sipping on a glass of its juice? If so, and you are currently taking certain medications that prevent you from enjoying grapefruit, then do I have some welcome news for you!
Scientists have finally pinpointed the substance in grapefruit juice that can get in the way of the absorption of some drugs.
At some point, it’s quite likely you’ve had a prescription that came with the warning that you should avoid consuming this specific citrus fruit while taking the drug. The effects of many drugs, including those for depression, erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pain, can be hindered by grapefruit juice.
Why is this? Well, when a drug is being metabolized, it is partially destroyed by “CYP3A,” an intestinal enzyme. When grapefruit juice is thrown into the mix, it messes up the whole process, which means that too much of the drug is absorbed by the body. I don’t need to tell you how dangerous this can be — too strong a dosage of certain medications can cause serious side effects. Until now, scientists did not know what specifically was in grapefruit juice that gave it this power to affect drug metabolism.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has now tagged “furanocoumarins,” chemicals present in the citrus fruit’s juice, as the culprits. They confirmed this by testing 18 study participants who had fasted. The volunteers were given a blood pressure drug, “felodipine,” along with orange juice, regular grapefruit juice, or grapefruit juice that had the furanocoumarins removed. The patients then ate and drank normally while they remained under observation for 24 hours.
It was clear that, in the patients who had drunk the regular grapefruit juice, much more of the felodipine (six percent to 230% more) had been absorbed into the bloodstream. Meanwhile, the people who had consumed orange juice or furanocoumarin-free grapefruit juice had the regular, expected amount of the drug in their bodies.
Now that researchers have figured out exactly what it is that makes grapefruit juice interfere with certain drugs, citrus-juice lovers who had to stay away from the stuff should be able to look forward to furanocoumarin-free juice that still has all the good taste and healthy benefits.
Moreover, specific tests can be done on other foods to ensure that they don’t contain the drug-interfering chemical, therefore cutting down on the risk of side effects. At the other end of the spectrum, there are medications that many people’s bodies have difficulty absorbing; now, furanocoumarins can possibly be added to these to make sure that the body gets what it needs in order to heal or stave off disease.