Grapefruit consumption and the country reporting the lowest cause of death from hypertension

In my last post I supplied some ancedotal evidence about the amazing grapefruit’s ability to lower blood pressure. Coincidentally, we, meaning Chris and me, have just moved to Florida. Let the grapefruit fest begin! (Except for me with my low blood pressure.) As further proof that grapefruit lowers blood pressure, I’d like to show you what I’ve since learned, by introducing Exhibit A, my husband, and Exhibit B, the country of Japan.

Exhibit A: Ian, my husband, is worried about staying in Switzerland without me while Chris and I take up residence in Florida. Ian won’t be joining me until he retires from his job early next year. The usual stresses (paperwork and logistics) of a transatlantic move have also weighed heavily on him. Ian will continue to cohabit our flat in Switzerland with Taylor, our youngest son.

Not unsurprisingly, my husband’s blood pressure over the past year has been on the high side. Just before we crossed the pond in early August, it became worrisomely high. So, I convinced him to have a glass of grapefruit juice every day. After doing so, he said he felt better but of course, wanted to have it checked by a doctor, so we got him in for an appointment the week after we arrived here. He was greatly relieved to learn that his diastolic blood pressure had dropped a whopping 19 points (!) since it was last measured in July. There was no need to discuss medication, according to the doctor.

Exhibit B: Curious about grapefruit’s astonishing effect on blood pressure I did a bit of internet research on Florida and grapefruits and learned the following: that the Japanese used to be the biggest importers of Florida’s grapefruits until the crops were affected by seasonal weather patterns in recent years and the ageing population began to shy away from grapefruit because of its known interaction with certain statins.

TOKYO — In the glory days, not all that long ago, Florida grapefruit farmers built their lives around Japan.

And the Japanese stayed true, enjoying grapefruit for breakfast, for dessert, swirled in cocktails, individually wrapped as gifts, even saving the peels for aromatic nightly baths.

Japan has one-third the population of the United States but consumed as much or more Florida grapefruit. Among imports in a typical Tokyo produce aisle, it was second only to bananas.

The fact that the Japanese are prepared to go so far as to even bathe in grapefruit peels prompted me to wonder where the Japanese stand in the world in terms of cause of death by hypertension. Well, what do you know? Dead last. Out of 183 countries, Japan is number 183. Here are the rankings.


Now, here’s the thing. Every time you read about the virtues of grapefruit, there is a cautionary warning that grapefruit and drugs for hypertension don’t mix, which is true. The article cited above has this to say:

The risk of grapefruit juice for certain statins is that it allows more of the drug to enter the body, putting someone at risk of side effects*, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The effect depends on the type of medication, the amount of grapefruit juice consumed, and someone’s individual health circumstances. But many just prefer to be cautious and avoid it.

“When I want to send grapefruit as a gift, I cannot send it to my parents because they are concerned about the medicine,” Tsujikawa said.

Yamano & Associates, the marketing liaison of the Florida Department of Citrus in Tokyo, has a 35-year history of trying to get Japanese to pay attention to Florida grapefruit.

To promote grapefruit, the agency has partnered with actress Saki Aibu, feng shui expert Dr. Copa, the Rakuten Golden Eagles pro baseball team in the northern city of Sendai, and the Kewpie mayonnaise and salad dressing company for “power salad” recipe cards.

So, who is promoting the idea that the natural antidote to high blood pressure is grapefruit juice? Not the marketing folks, it appears. Could this be yet another one of pharma’s best-kept secrets that the marketing folks are aware of, but reluctant to divulge? If I were them, I’d want to get those old people (most of Japan) back on grapefruit.


* I’m not sure what the “side effect”s are, but I’m guessing grapefruit would cause the blood pressure to plummet dangerously. Too much of a good thing.

5 thoughts on “Grapefruit consumption and the country reporting the lowest cause of death from hypertension”

  1. In the book Drug Muggers by Suzy Cohen, RPh it states that grapefruit interacts with numerous medications by causing the medication level to spike. Suzy includes a two page grapefruit interaction chart which lists the drug class, medication and interaction results. If high BP is your only health issue then grapefruit sounds like a great remedy, but be cautious if you take other meds.

    1. Good warning. Grapefruit juice is powerful stuff. But the warnings are unclear about exactly what the problem may be if you add grapefruit to your diet when taking certain drugs. When I got on a grapefruit kick a couple of years ago, I was giving a whole juiced grapefruit to me, my husband, and my son, who was on Abilify. My husband was on several meds at the time. The only person who seemed not to tolerate the grapefruit was me, as my low blood pressure combined with the grapefruit juice and a baby aspirin taken at the wrong time of day had me crawling on the floor. The only thing my son’s doctors ever said about grapefruit juice was that it would cause the medication not to work, but I didn’t think it worked in the first place so I ignored the advice. Here’s some bizarre advice. “Don’t drink grapefruit juice if you are taking any of these medications unless advised to by your doctor.” Who writes this stuff and what exactly does it mean?

  2. It’s my understanding that the grapefruit thing is a CYP issue. It inhibits enzymes that are used to metabolise a number of drugs.

    Better the grapefruit than the drugs (and who really needs statins, anyway?)

    1. From Wiki: Cytochrome P450 3A4 (abbreviated CYP3A4) (EC is an important enzyme in the body, mainly found in the liver and in the intestine. It oxidizes small foreign organic molecules (xenobiotics), such as toxins or drugs, so that they can be removed from the body.

      While many drugs are deactivated by CYP3A4, there are also some drugs which are activated by the enzyme. Some substances, such as grapefruit juice and some drugs, interfere with the action of CYP3A4. These substances will therefore either amplify or weaken the action of those drugs that are modified by CYP3A4.

      CYP3A4 is a member of the cytochrome P450 family of oxidizing enzymes. Several other members of this family are also involved in drug metabolism, but CYP3A4 is the most common and the most versatile one. Like all members of this family, it is a hemoprotein, i.e. a protein containing a heme group with an iron atom. In humans, the CYP3A4 protein is encoded by the CYP3A4 gene.[3] This gene is part of a cluster of cytochrome P450 genes on chromosome 7q21.1.[4]

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