If you take statin drugs for lowering cholesterol, it is a good idea to avoid grapefruit and grapefruit products. Statins and grapefruit don't mix because components in grapefruit interfere with the way statins are broken down in the body. If the body can't properly metabolize cholesterol-lowering drugs, the drugs can build up in the patient's system, resulting in an overdose. Side effects of an interaction between statins and grapefruit include potentially fatal liver, kidney, and muscle damage.
Grapefruit is a healthy food that is low in calories and high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and potassium. It is understandable that those who take statin drugs might want to add fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice to their diets. Unfortunately, a compound in grapefruit known as bergamottin interferes with the enzymes needed to metabolize certain statin drugs, including atorvastatin (Lipitor®), simvastatin (Zocor®), and lovastatin (Mevacor®). Evidence shows that only one instance of grapefruit or grapefruit product consumption can be enough to cause these drugs to build up in your system, and timing doesn't matter much either. Even if you eat or drink grapefruit products many hours after taking your pills, the risk is still present.
Statins and grapefruit are not the only significant drug/fruit interaction of which you need to be aware. Both pomelos and Seville oranges can have a similar effect. Seville oranges are often included in fruit compotes and marmalades, and pomelos, or Chinese grapefruit, are a citrus fruit from southeast Asia that can be found in ethnic markets. The problem of toxic drug buildup similar to that caused by the interaction of statins and grapefruit can occur when people mix other drugs with fruits that contain bergamottin. These drugs include some antidepressants; calcium channel blockers; and cardiac, HIV, and anti-seizure medications.
Fortunately, people who take statin drugs may not need to abstain from grapefruit or its juice forever. The metabolism of some cholesterol drugs, such as pravastatin (Pravachol ®), fluvastatin (Lescol ®), and pitavastatin (Livalo ®), doesn't seem to be affected by grapefruit in the same way as other statin drugs. Still, some medical professionals advise caution when combining the two anyway, and suggest that patients delay grapefruit consumption for several hours after taking their medication. If you enjoy eating grapefruit, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist about potential interactions with your medications. It may be possible to switch to an alternative drug or lower your dosage so that you don't have to worry about the interaction between statins and grapefruit.