Sure, grapefruit is a nutritious source of vitamins and potassium, but the pretty pink fruit might do you more harm than good if you're taking certain medications.
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A plump, juicy grapefruit cut in half with a sprinkle of brown sugar is a favorite and simple way to enjoy the nutrient-dense fruit for breakfast or as a snack. The ruby red flesh brightens plain yogurt and is stupendous in a sangria. The citrus is packed with immune-boosting vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as a punch of potassium. That said, even with all the beneficial properties of this sweet and tangy fruit, it may not be the healthiest choice for you. When mixed with the certain medications, grapefruit juice can cause harmful side effects.

Most of us wouldn’t second guess washing down a pill with grapefruit juice in the morning, but you may want to. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), grapefruit juice increases the potency of particular drugs in the body. It blocks an imperative enzyme required for the drug’s digestion. If you tend to drink mixed fruit juices with a little splash of everything, you may have to read ingredient list with caution depending on what medicines you’re taking.

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Medications used to treat cholesterol, blood pressure, organ transplant rejection, allergies, anxiety, and arrhythmia have the greatest risks of negative reactions with grapefruit juice. It is highly recommended to avoid grapefruit juice while on these medicines. The drugs linger in the body longer than normal mimicking symptoms of an overdose. If you treat any of these ailments with medicine, review the label for warnings signs.

The adverse interaction begins when the pill enters into the digestive system. In the small intestine the enzyme, CYP3A4, breaks down the drugs when ingested. However, properties of grapefruit juice inhibit this action. The drugs absorbs into the bloodstream instead of metabolizing. This causes an alarming amount of the medication to be released into the body. Levels of CYP3A4 vary by person, resulting in different reactions.

In some drugs like fexofenadine (i.e. Allegra), grapefruit drastically reduces the absorption creating a reverse effect to minimize the drug’s effectiveness. Confusing, right? If you’re unsure what’s safe to mix with your medications, always consult your doctor. And in the meantime, when in doubt, your best bet is to steer clear of grapefruit juice while on medicine.

| Credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

fda-grapefruit-infographic U.S. Food and Drug Administration

By Briana Riddock and Briana Riddock