Q: Is it OK to eat or drink grapefruit products when I'm taking a statin?

A: It depends on the statin you’re taking and how much grapefruit or juice you're consuming. The cholesterol-lowering drugs rosuvastatin (Crestor), fluvastatin (Lescol) and pravastatin (Pravachol) have all been proven safe for grapefruit fans and don't interact with grapefruit products.

Grapefruit products have a potential for harm if you're taking atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev) or simvastatin (Zocor). Drinking 8 ounces or more of grapefruit juice can slow how your body metabolizes, or processes, these drugs, causing high concentrations of the statins to remain in your blood. This can lead to muscle pain or weakness and a breakdown of muscle cells, a condition called rhabdomyolysis, that can severely damage the kidneys.

Reactions among people vary, and grapefruit's effect can last for 24 to 72 hours. So if you want to drink grapefruit juice, it's probably best to speak with your doctor first to find out whether it's a risk you should personally take.

If your doctor advises against consuming grapefruit products while taking Lipitor, Mevacor, Altoprev or Zocor, but you still have your heart set on a fresh glass of grapefruit juice every morning, ask him or her about taking an alternative statin that's been shown to have no interactions with grapefruit products.

Even if your statin doesn't interact with grapefruit, a number of other drugs may. These include drugs for high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia and depression. No matter what drugs you're taking, always read their warning labels to check for any potential interactions with your favorite foods and drinks.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 08 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 21 Jan 2015