Grapefruit Lowers Cholesterol
Grapefruit contains pectin, a form of soluble fiber that has been shown in animal studies to slow down the progression of atherosclerosis. In one study, animals fed a high-cholesterol diet plus grapefruit pectin had 24% narrowing of their arteries, while animals fed the high-cholesterol diet without grapefruit pectin had 45% narrowing.
Both blond and red grapefruit can reduce blood levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and red grapefruit lowers triglycerides as well, shows a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Israeli researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem first tested the antioxidant potential of blond and red grapefruits and then their cholesterol-lowering potential in humans. The test tube research showed that red grapefruit contains more bioactive compounds and total polyphenols than blond, but both grapefruits are comparable in their content of fiber, phenolic and ascorbic acids, and the flavonoid, naringinen, although red grapefruit contains slightly more flavonoids and anthocyanins.
In this recent study, participants added either red grapefruit, blond grapefruit or no grapefruit to their daily diet. The results indicated that both types of grapefruit appeared to lower LDL cholesterol in just 30 days: total cholesterol by 15.5% in those eating red grapefruit and 7.6% in those eating blond grapefruit; LDL cholesterol by 20.3% and 10.7% respectively; and triglycerides by 17.2% and 5.6% respectively. No changes were seen in the control group (those that didn’t eat any grapefruit).
Both red and blond grapefruits both positively influenced cholesterol levels, but red grapefruit was more than twice as effective, especially in lowering triglycerides. In addition, both grapefruits significantly improved blood levels of protective antioxidants. Red grapefruit’s better performance may be due to an as yet unknown antioxidant compound or the synergistic effects of its phytonutrients, including lycopene.
In response to this rapid and very positive outcome, the researchers concluded that adding fresh red grapefruit to the diet could be beneficial for persons with high cholesterol, especially those who also have high triglycerides.
One caveat, however: Compounds in grapefruit are known to increase circulating levels of several prescription drugs including statins. For this reason, the risk of muscle toxicity associated with statins may increase when grapefruit is consumed. (See our Individual Concerns section for more information.)
Prevent Kidney Stones
Want to reduce your risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones? Drink grapefruit juice. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when women drank 1/2 to 1 liter of grapefruit, apple or orange juice daily, their urinary pH value and citric acid excretion increased, significantly dropping their risk of forming calcium oxalate stones.
Protection against Colon Cancer
Not only are grapefruit rich in vitamin C, but new research presented at the 228th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society provides two more reasons to drink grapefruit juice: protection against lung and colon cancer.
In humans, drinking three 6-ounce glasses of grapefruit juice a day was shown to reduce the activity of an enzyme that activates cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. In rats whose colons were injected with carcinogens, grapefruit and its isolated active compounds (apigenin, hesperidin, limonin, naringin, naringenin, nobiletin) not only increased the suicide (apoptosis) of cancer cells, but also the production of normal colon cells.
Researchers also confirmed that grapefruit may help prevent weight gain by lowering insulin levels.
Grapefruit’s Naringenin Repairs DNA
Naringenin, a flavonoid concentrated in grapefruit, helps repair damaged DNA in human prostate cancer cells (cell line LNCaP), reports a lab study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
The risk of prostate cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in the U.S, increases with age since the older we become, the more times our cells have divided and the greater the chance for DNA mutations to occur. DNA repair is one of the body’s primary defense mechanisms against the development of cancer since it removes potentially cancer-causing mutations in cells.
Naringenin helps restore health to damaged DNA by inducing two enzymes that repair DNA during the replication stage. These enzymes, 8-oxoguanine-DNA glycosylase 1 (hOGG1), and DNA polymerase beta (DNA poly beta), are both involved in the DNA base excision repair (BER) pathway.
The scientists in this study exposed cell cultures to 80 micromoles per liter, an amount we cannot achieve by consuming grapefruit since research indicates that only between 2 and 15% flavonoids in the food we consume are absorbed in the GI tract, and plasma concentrations after eating flavonoid-rich foods range from 0.5 to 1 micromole per liter.
Fortunately, however, the researchers also demonstrated that the concentration of naringenin inside the cells that was needed for its beneficial effects was only 5% of the amount in the medium, and this amount is physiologically achievable in our tissues.
Unlike many other cancers, prostate cancer is slow growing initially and often remains undetectable for a long time. Enjoying grapefruit regularly may be one way to prevent its progression by promoting the repair of damaged DNA in prostate cells, thus preventing them from becoming cancerous.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Grapefruit sections add a tangy spark to green salads.
- Instead of your morning glass of OJ, have a glass of grapefruit juice.
- Combine diced grapefruit with cilantro and chili peppers to make a unique salsa.
- To enjoy a salad with a tropical flair, combine chopped grapefruit pieces, cooked shrimp and avocadoes and serve on a bed of romaine lettuce.
Grapefruit and Drug Interactions
Check with your healthcare practitioner about consuming grapefruit juice if you’re taking pharmaceutical drugs. Certain pharmaceutical drugs combined with grapefruit juice become more potent. Compounds in grapefruit juice, including naringenin, slow the normal detoxification and metabolism processes in the intestines and liver, which hinders the body’s ability to breakdown and eliminate these drugs.
These interactive drugs include the immunosuppressent cyclosporine and calcium channel blocker drugs, such as felodipine, nifedipine and verapamil. Other drugs whose bioavailability is enhanced by grapefruit juice are the antihistamine terfenadine, the hormone estradiol and the antiviral agent saquinavir.
Research also indicates that individuals taking statin drugs should avoid grapefruit. Grapefruit increases the amount of statin drug that reaches the general circulation in two ways. First, grapefruit contains a compound called naringenin, which inactivates an enzyme (cytochrome P450 3A4) in the small intestine that metabolizes statin drugs. Secondly, grapefruit also inhibits P-glycoprotein, a carrier molecule produced in the intestinal wall that would normally transport the statin drug back to the gut. The end result of these two mechanisms is that much more of the statin drug enters the systemic circulation than would normally be the case, leading to a build up in statin levels that can be quite dangerous, and may trigger a rare but serious statin-associated disease called rhabdomyolysis. Rhaddomyolysis affects muscle tissue, usually causing temporary paralysis or weakness, unless the muscle is severely injured.
Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and vitamin C. It is also a good source of pantothenic acid, copper, dietary fiber, potassium, biotin, and vitamin B1. Grapefruit also contains phytochemicals including liminoids and lycopene.
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