Safer Grapefruit

Published: October 19 2011


Warnings about grapefruit show up on some prescription drugs, as it can interfere with certain medicines. Now University of Florida researchers are developing a tasty grapefruit that won’t come with a warning.

Doctors often warn patients who take heart and blood pressure medication not to eat grapefruit, but the fruit’s image could be changing. Now researchers have created a grapefruit hybrid that won’t interfere with medicine. Experts say the key lies in controlling for a family of chemicals in the fruit called “furanocoumarin.”

Fred Gmitter/UF citrus genetics researcher: “There are certain relatives of grapefruit that we call Pomelo, some of which are very, very low or have no furanocoumarins in them at all. And we’ve crossed these with ordinary grapefruit. And learned that it’s a trait under simple genetic control. There’s a single gene that appears to control this characteristic and so we can select in the hybrid families that we make, we can select individuals that do not have this chemical.”

The furanocoumarin levels in these new hybrid fruits are actually lower than what you would find in foods such as lemons and celery, which naturally carry the chemical.

Fred Gmitter/UF citrus genetics researcher: “Doctors don’t generally tell their patients not to drink lemonade or not to eat celery. So these should be safer, as safe or safer than lemons or celery.”

It’ll still take time to get the new hybrids to market, so consumers can eat grapefruit free of worries about drug interactions or warning labels.