Is Grapefruit Safe to Eat with Statins?
The popular breakfast fruit is usually okay in moderation, but the type and dosage of statin may make a difference.
If you take a statin to help lower your cholesterol, you may have heard that you should avoid grapefruit.
“Patients often ask about grapefruit and statins, and whether they can eat the fruit or drink the juice when on statins,” says Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, co-section head of Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic.
Fortunately, the answer for many individuals on statins is that grapefruits are safe as long as they’re consumed in moderation. The type of statin you take may also be a factor in determining whether grapefruit should be a part of your breakfast.
What’s the Concern?
Statins help control your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Each type of statin works a little differently, but the goal of controlling LDL levels is the same.
Grapefruits contain a chemical that can interfere with the way the body metabolizes or breaks down statins. Consuming a lot of grapefruit or drinking a lot of grapefruit juice could increase the amount of statin medication circulating in your bloodstream. This could lead to muscle pain or kidney problems.
Know Your Statin
This potential interaction problem is really only a concern for two types of statins, explains Steven Nissen, MD, chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.
“This is an issue only for lovastatin and simvastatin and is only problematic at the highest dosages,” says Dr. Nissen.
Some recent research suggests that low-to-moderate consumption of grapefruit may be safe for lovastatin, too. Some of the early studies that first raised concerns about grapefruit and statins involved patients drinking at least two quarts of grapefruit juice per day, Dr. Hazen says.
“A more reasonable level of grapefruit consumption has been shown to result in far less effect on statins,” he says.
But he adds that you should still talk with your doctor before eating grapefruit if you take a statin.
There is no definitive opinion on the subject. Higher doses of a strong statin may increase your odds of a negative interaction. Lower doses of a milder statin may make this less of a concern.
Your doctor may take a conservative approach to this issue or simply suggest that you don’t overdo it and pay attention for any signs of side effects or complications.
“I personally tell my folks who have had no issues with taking a statin, ‘Go ahead and eat the grapefruit, but in moderation,’” he says. “Better they eat a low-calorie fruit. If we find symptoms of statin intolerance, we can cross that bridge, if need be.”