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Coming Soon: A Grapefruit That Mixes With Meds

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New strain could be available in a few years.

grapefruit, genetics, food, drug interactionGrapefruits, albeit sour, are nutritious and can be delicious. But they’ve also been known to interfere with many medications, and even some dietary supplements. So, many doctors try to steer some patients away from eating grapefruit.

But a researcher at the University of Florida (where else?) has found a way to breed grapefruits that doctors (and patients) may have a greater tolerance for. Fred Gmitter (pictured, left) combined a grapefruit and a similar fruit called a pummel to create the new variety, called UF 914. His work is published in the December issue of Xenobiotica.

The new UF 914 grapefruit has very low levels of furanocoumarins, chemicals that interfere with digestive enzymes and can cause effects of overdose in people taking certain medications. Furanocoumarins can affect the activity of the enzyme cytochrome P 450 (known as CYP), which is involved with 75 percent of all metabolic interactions in a given cell.

The new variety is the result of 15 years of research, in which Gmitter was trying to create a red-fleshed pummelo. A few years into the work, scientists on the project noticed that the experimental fruits had low furanocoumarin levels. Taking a detour from his “red pummelo” work, Gmitter and his colleagues identified a single gene in the original pummel that controlled production of furanocoumarins. Further work in cell culture found it safe, and later small trials found that people liked the new fruit’s taste—even people who ordinarily didn’t like grapefruit.

The new fruit is scheduled to be distributed to nurseries early this year, and enough fruit will be grown in about five years to make it commercially available.

The study shows one important issue in food production: while there’s a great deal of focus on genetic modification, this particular modification was done through traditional cross-breeding methods.

Sources: The Packer, University of Florida

Photo: University of Florida

Greenblatt, D., et al. (2012). Mechanism-based inhibition of human Cytochrome P450-3A activity by grapefruit hybrids having low furanocoumarin content Xenobiotica, 42 (12), 1163-1169 DOI: 10.3109/00498254.2012.700428

grapefruit facts, drug interactions, drug with food and beverage

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