Beware the Deadly Grapefruit

By Dirk Hanson 04/19/11

Think how stupid you’d feel if something went wrong, and all you could offer as an explanation was: “grapefruit.”

It looks so innocent.
Photo via thinkstockphotos

Grapefruit? Bad for your health? At least for some people, the answer is yes. Doctors claim that a chemical compound contained in the juice has an inhibitory effect on a wide array of common drugs, from Prozac and other SSRI antidepressants, to Elavil, Halcion, Seroquel, Tegretol, and Valium. Some statins, antibiotics, and calcium channel blockers also react poorly with grapefruit juice. Here’s one nasty example: Grapefruit juice combined with Buspar, a common anti-anxiety drug, can result in Serotonin Syndrome, a dangerous condition marked by dizziness, agitation, rapid heart rate, and dramatic changes in blood pressure. This happens because grapefruit juice inhibits the work of key enzymes responsible for breaking down drugs. The result: a level of Buspar in the blood up to four times the recommended dosage. Other citric drinks may also be a potential problem. Katherine Zeratsky, a Mayo Clinic nutritionist, points out that Pomelos and Seville oranges, a bitter orange often used to make marmalades and compotes, may have a similar effect. Zeratsky urges patients not to take these warnings lightly, and to check with your doctor or pharmacist about potential interactions. Think how stupid you’d feel if something went wrong, and all you could offer as an explanation was: “grapefruit.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
dirk hanson.jpg

Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]