Grapefruit Health Benefits and Side Effects

06/24/2015 | 2 min. read

Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Grapefruit Health Benefits and Side Effects

Grapefruit is not only a delicious and tangy fruit, eating it gives you a wide variety of health benefits. It's low in calories and carbohydrates and eating it before a meal can help to curb your appetite so you're less likely to overeat. Plus, it's high in soluble fiber which helps to lower your blood sugar and promotes regularity. Also, grapefruits are rich in antioxidants and contain 77 mg of vitamin C per serving, which supports your overall health and immune system.

Grapefruit contains many heart benefits as well. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that eating red grapefruit can help to lower triglyceride levels in patients with coronary atherosclerosis. Plus, it can help to boost HDL cholesterol, making eating grapefruit an excellent way to help promote a healthy triglyceride-to-HDL ratio.

Grapefruit-Medication Interactions

You may have seen a grapefruit interaction warning on a medication you're taking. The reason for that warning is that the liver can be literally overwhelmed metabolizing grapefruit. That's because it metabolizes grapefruit via the P450 pathway—the same metabolic superhighway your body uses to break down and absorb many common drugs.

While we don’t know for sure why our livers make grapefruit metabolism such a high priority, the result is that medications are not absorbed effectively, so they can either be rendered less effective or accumulate. That brings up another problem—that a drug-affected by grapefruit interactions can either be poorly absorbed or reach toxic levels.

What's also important to know is that the signs of a grapefruit-drug interaction issue can be insidious and subtle. For instance, someone taking an antidepressant may have too much or too little energy, depending on the specific drug and grapefruit interactions. Someone pumping vitamin C levels with grapefruit to fight an infection may take longer to improve despite the antibiotic they are taking or develop diarrhea.

It's Important to Enjoy Grapefruit in Moderation

According to a British study, postmenopausal women eating half a fresh grapefruit daily were 30% more likely to develop breast cancer than those not consuming the fruit. And we know that even HRT can be affected by grapefruit. One speculation is that the grapefruit interactions in the body may directly increase estrogen levels.

Plus, in men grapefruit can augment the body’s production of aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen in men, often causing an undesirable feminizing effect. In fact, I took a dietary history on one of my male patients who complained of erectile dysfunction (ED). When I learned the gentleman ate or drank grapefruit/grapefruit juice every day I realized the source of his ED.

As with any food, you want to keep moderation in mind. If there are no interactions with medications you may be taking, I encourage you to make grapefruit one of the many fruits you eat for good health.

Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Meet Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy.

More About Dr. Stephen Sinatra