A safe grapefruit: is it possible?

By Laura Mize • Published: June 17th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Grapefruit lovers, rejoice! Scientists have developed a new version of your favorite citrus treat, one they believe is safe to enjoy no matter what medication you take.

This hybrid is designed not to mess with enzymes in your body that break down medications, a problem caused by compounds in normal grapefruit. Clinical trials are still needed to confirm that the fruit lives up to the claim, but the hybrid’s invention seems like a step in the right direction.

Many unanswered questions remain about grapefruit’s interaction with drugs, such as how much grapefruit or its juice might cause a reaction. But there’s no doubt the fruit’s interference can wreak havoc. For example, it causes some drugs to be processed too fast, making them ineffective. Others stick around in the body for much too long. And some meds dump into the bloodstream in unsafe amounts. The results can be dire: grapefruit interactions with 43 different drugs may cause death.

Forty-two other meds are known to cause less serious problems. Some of the drugs that can interact with grapefruit treat serious conditions: cancer, heart problems, migraines and high cholesterol, to name a few.

If the hybrid grapefruit proves safe, then people who’ve abstained from the tart treat for years due to medications will be free to dig into the new version without concern. University of Florida researchers developed the hybrid, a cross between a red grapefruit and a pomelo.

What’s a pomelo, you ask? It’s an Asian citrus fruit that may be related to the grapefruit. The hybrid has very low levels of the substances that cause the drug interactions. It also has a slightly sweeter taste.

You probably won’t see the hybrid in stores for several more years. But if you’re longing for safe grapefruit, don’t give up hope. It may well be on its way.