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Eating grapefruit may raise clotting risk

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Saturday April 4, 2009 (foodconsumer.org) -- A case report published in the April 2, 2009 issue of The Lancet suggests that eating grapefruit or drinking its juice may increase the risk of developing blood clots in women who are on birth control pills and or have some genetic mutation.

Dr. Lucinda Grande and colleagues at the Providence Hospital of St. Peter Health Care in Olympia, Washington, reported that interactions of drinking grapefruit juice at breakfast for three days, taking birth control pills and carrying a genetic mutation almost cost a woman her leg.

The rare case has again confirmed that eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice can be dangerous to people who take certain medications. The problem is that an ingredient in grapefruit can interact with certain drugs, affecting their metabolism and potentially resulting in a buildup of the drugs to a dangerous level.

The woman’s leg was saved after she promptly sought medical attention. The real reason for the formation of the dangerous blood clot remained unknown. Drinking grapefruit has not been proven to be the cause, but the doctors speculated that the possibility is real.

Eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice has been known to increase estrogen, which is a major ingredient of many birth control pills, and the female hormone is known to increase the likelihood of clotting.

Women drinking too much grapefruit juice or eating too much grapefruit were at higher risk of breast cancer, some previous studies have found. This is due apparently to the fact that some grapefruit component can block estrogen’s metabolism, leading to an increase in the serum estrogen level. Exposure to high estrogen is known to raise the risk of breast cancer.

In the reported case, the doctors also found that the woman carried a genetic mutation which predisposes her to a high risk of clotting.

The doctors said the case report is not meant to discourage people from eating or drinking grapefruit, although the report suggests that patients should pay attention to the potential interactions of grapefruit with drugs.

(By David Liu, and edited by Heather Kelley)

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