Specific molecules that appear naturally in grapefruit juice can increase the level of statins in a person’s blood, which can “worsen” their effects.
Drinking a small glass of grapefruit juice may not have serious consequences.
However, a person taking statins should always talk to a doctor before consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice.
On rare occasions, however, grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interact with statins, leading to dangerous side effects.
The study found that the compounds in grapefruit prevent the body from metabolizing statins normally, which increases their concentration in a person’s blood.
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Usually, when a person consumes statins without grapefruit juice, the enzyme CIP3A breaks them down in the intestines and liver.
This process reduces the amount of statins that reach the bloodstream.
However, furanocoumarins – compounds that naturally exist in grapefruit – kill this enzyme and prevent it from breaking down statins. As a result, the body absorbs more statins than normal from the gut into the bloodstream – leading to potentially fatal consequences.
According to the research team, more than 85 drugs can interact with these compounds in grapefruit – not just statins.
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Furthermore, other citrus fruits may contain compounds with similar interactions. These include:
- Seville oranges
According to the NHS, a person taking statins can seek advice from their doctor about all citrus fruits to avoid if taking statins.
Not all statin drugs are the same in terms of their interaction with grapefruit.
On the other hand, one special study found that taking grapefruit juice with certain statins can have beneficial effects, reducing LDL cholesterol levels by about six percent.
That is why some scientists claim that health workers should not forbid people to take grapefruit in moderation with certain statins.
Someone who takes some statins can start noticing the harmful effects only if they drink one liter (946 milliliters) or more of grapefruit juice.
Consuming grapefruit is less risky because the typical size of a meal – about half a grapefruit – contains less than the typical glass of juice a person could eat with breakfast.