U. FLORIDA (US) — A new citrus hybrid may make it possible for people taking certain medications to add the taste of grapefruit back into their diets without the risk of complications.
For years, doctors and pharmacists have warned people to steer clear of fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice because it can change how much some medicines, including those meant to lower cholesterol, are absorbed in the patients’ bloodstream, intensifying therapeutic or side effects.
A chemical naturally found in some vegetables and fruits called furanocoumarin has been identified as primarily responsible for the grapefruit juice effect.
“We have the possibility to develop new products that are going to be very similar to grapefruit, and we won’t have these issues,” says Fred Gmitter, a citrus breeder at the University of Florida.
“And they can be used as a fresh fruit, or people can make juice from them, and all these folks who are on the medicines won’t have to worry about them.”
Reported in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, the study began when Florida Department of Citrus research scientist Paul Cancalon, asked Gmitter’s laboratory for samples of Florida-grown grapefruit to compare to grapefruit grown in other places around the world.
Cancalon noticed that the Florida-grown grapefruit demonstrated lower furanocoumarin content than grapefruit grown in other places, so he and Gmitter began checking more grapefruit and pummelo varieties, and also hybrids, for furanocoumarin levels.
Eventually, they found several hybrids with little to no furanocoumarins, including one seedless variety they believe will have wide appeal for consumers.
Lisa House, professor in food and resource economics who studies consumer preferences, led two focus groups in Atlanta in early 2011. One group was made up of grapefruit consumers; the other of non-consumers.
Although it’s difficult to draw big conclusions from a small group, in general, both consumer groups liked the idea of a grapefruit hybrid that didn’t interfere with prescription drugs—more so after taste tests, she says.
“Both groups saw it as a fruit to add to their diet, not just something to replace grapefruit.”
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