9 Fascinating Grapefruit Benefits + History

Grapefruit benefits for health are numerous, including supporting a healthy weight, heart health, immunity, and more.  Here is an in-depth review of the research supporting grapefruit benefits.

Grapefruit Benefits Overview

Grapefruit benefits infographic which lists the benefits of grapefruit included in the text and grapefruit slices on a pink background by The Healthy RD
Grapefruit benefits infographic

The benefits of grapefruit are emerging in research today.  Grapefruit is rich in antioxidants and may help with many aspects of health.  These include:

  • Rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and nutrients
  • Helpful for weight management
  • Reducing body fat
  • May reduce certain kinds of cancer
  • Antibacterial properties
  • Antifungal properties
  • Reduces candida

Grapefruit is brightening and purifying.  It may help reduce toxins in the body as well by helping with proper digestion.  The refreshing scent of grapefruit essential oil energizes and boosts mood.  Grapefruit essential oil may help reduce excess fluids in the body as well. While similar to lemon essential oil and other citrus oils, grapefruit contains slightly different antioxidants.

Grapefruit History

Not so long ago, little boys and girls at Christmas would look forward to citrus fruits in their holiday stockings as a sweet, exotic gift.  The simple gift of grapefruit is still wonderful because it is a gift to our health.

Grapefruit first appeared and graced the earth in Barbados as a serendipitous combining of pomelo and sweet orange or a hybrid of the two. No one is sure if this was intentional hybridization or a happy accident, but either way, lucky me.  My keyboard may or may not be splashed with grapefruit juice right now.

The juicy grapefruit is referred to as “the forbidden fruit” in Barbados where it originated. In 1750, those searching for the forbidden fruit of good and evil coined it this way.

Ruby Red grapefruit strain resulted from a natural hybridization, another so-called accident.  This is different than the genetic modification of crops.

As a result, ripe and red segments of grapefruit are a splash of freshness in the frigid depths of the winter months.

Grapefruit Benefits: Nutrition

  • Each half grapefruit contains the following nutrients per cup:
    • Calories: 74
    • Fiber 2g
    • Carbohydrates  11g
    • Magnesium 21 mg
    • Vitamin A | 23% DV
    • Vitamin C 85 mg | 52% DV
    • Potassium: 345 mg
    • Folate: 20 mcg

Grapefruit contains small amounts of vitamins like thiamine, folate, riboflavin, and vitamin E.  They are a great low-calorie snack at any time of the day.

Antioxidants In Grapefruit

Grapefruit contains well-known antioxidants including vitamin C, lycopene, and beta carotene.  They also contain healthy antioxidants called flavonoids.  Even the grapefruit peel has 13 identified flavonoids with antioxidant and medicinal properties. These flavonoids are simply healthy pigments with antioxidant activities that are found in most plants.

Keep in mind, most reported benefits of these individual flavonoids have been in animal studies. Here are some of them.

  • Isonaringin: Antioxidant activity
  • Naringin: Weight loss, reduced heart disease, blood pressure, inflammation, improved liver function
  • Hesperidin: Reduces hemorrhoid symptoms and improves venous insufficiency: see below.
  • Neohesperidin: Similar to hesperidin in structure
  • Naringenin: May reduce cancer growth
  • Hesperetin: Similar to hesperidin in structure, may reduce tumor growth
  • Isosinensetin: May protect the lung from oxidative damage
  • Sinensetin: Helps break down fat
  • Nobiletin: Protects neurons from the amyloid beta of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Tangeretin: also is neuroprotective

Grapefruit Benefits for Weight Loss

Clinical studies in humans also support grapefruit’s benefits for weight. Grapefruit given as capsules or as juice resulted in larger weight loss for people over a 12-week period than the equivalent amount of apple juice or apple juice capsules.

Grapefruit also reduced imbalances in insulin and had greater reductions in weight in people with metabolic syndrome.

Body fat and weight reductions were substantial when patients were given a combination of red-orange, grapefruit, and orange extracts, with a total of almost 16% body fat loss after 3 months and 5.2 kg weight loss. This is because the citrus product stimulated the fat-burning pathway.

People sometimes lose weight with grapefruit use. This is because grapefruit essential oil fragrance increases sympathetic nerve activity of white adipose tissue.  This, in turn,  may stimulate fat loss and may cause weight loss, at least according to animal studies.

The combination of inhaling the scent of patchouli oil and grapefruit essential oil lowers cravings and hunger, which makes it a great tool to support healthy weight loss.

While research still remains early for grapefruit oil as a weight loss aid, it is a low-risk option to try.  

Grapefruit Benefits the Heart

Grapefruit oil may also help the heart by supporting metabolism and markers of heart health.  This includes a reduction in waist width and blood pressure. Grapefruit has a low glycemic index, so it is less likely to spike blood sugar levels than many fruits as well.

The pectin from grapefruit may reduce harmful types of cholesterol like LDL. Extract of naringenin from citrus fruits also reduced LDL cholesterol by 17% in 60 patients with high cholesterol levels.

Grapefruit is rich in antioxidants that can help the heart by reducing inflammation as well.

  • To review, grapefruit oil may help cardiovascular issues by:
    • Reduce inches on the waist
    • Reduce blood pressure
    • Reduce harmful cholesterol
    • Reduce inflammation

Grapefruit Helps Other Circulatory Conditions

Blood vessels in the rest of our body may benefit from grapefruit essential oil as well.  Blood vessels can become weak when people have venous insufficiency or hemorrhoids.

When a grapefruit extract is used in combination with another plant extract (Daflon) it reduces hemorrhoids and improves venous insufficiency.

Further, grapefruit helped hemorroids more when cases of venous ulcers and venous insufficiency were severe. 

Grapefruit Benefits: Reduces Sun Damage

Sunscreen is not the only option to help protect our skin.  Our diet and supplements, as well as essential oils,  can help.

One clinical study shows that a combination of rosemary and grapefruit orally at as little as  100 mg per day was able to reduce sun damage to the skin, such as redness and wrinkles; it also increased skin elasticity.

Take home message: Sunscreen isn’t enough; the incidence of skin cancer continues to climb. Diet intake needs to improve to protect skin as well.

Grapefruit Reduces Infectious Bugs

  • Grapefruit has strong anti-microbial properties, and at high concentrations, prevents the growth of 20 kinds of bacteria and 10 kinds of yeast, including:
    • Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 6538P
    • Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 29213
    • Staphylococcus epidermidis MFBF
    • Streptococcus faecalis ATCC 20201
    • Streptococcus sp. MFBF
    • Listeria monocytogenes MFBF
    • Escherichia coli O:157 MFBF
    • Escherichia coli O:128 MFBF
    • Shigella sonnei MFBF
    • Salmonella enteritidis MFBF
    •  Klebsiella oxytoca MFBF

Of note, some grapefruit seed extracts and essential oils have synthetic additives.  Be sure to choose pure kinds without added chemicals. Early work shows that grapefruit seed extract may fight antibiotic-resistant urinary tract infections.

Grapefruit may also reduce the growth of some harmful molds and yeasts like Aflatoxin and Aspergillus.

Many consumers suggest that topical grapefruit seed extract helps reduce athlete’s foot, a type of fungal foot infection.

Grapefruit Benefits: May Reduce Acne

Not only may grapefruit oil help reduce the damage to the skin from the sun, but it may also help reduce embarrassing breakouts.

Grapefruit essential oil may work as an acne treatment because it helps reduce the growth of bacteria that is common in acne.

Simply add 2-3 drops of grapefruit oil for every 5 ml of your favorite moisturizer.  Then apply the mixture once in the evening to the affected area.

Grapefruit Benefits: Reduces Cancer Risk

Citrus juices, including grapefruit juice,  may reduce the chances of pancreatic cancer and pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth.

Grapefruit essential oil may inhibit the growth of cancer cells by causing cancer cell death.

When combined with a common breast cancer drug, Tamoxifen, a compound from grapefruit reduced the growth of breast cancer cells more than Tamoxifen alone.

Grapefruit essential oil even helped reduce the growth of leukemia cells by causing apoptosis, or cancer cell death.

Obviously, more research is still needed to determine how much benefit grapefruit is in reducing cancer risk.  In the meantime, it is a healthy part of the diet that may help with many aspects of health including reducing cancer risk. 

Might Grapefruit Increase Some Types of Cancers?

One study found a slight increase in breast cancer incidence with increasing grapefruit intake.  The authors of the research study speculate that when women take prescription estrogen, grapefruit enhances the levels of estrogen in the body.  This is because grapefruit is able to reduce the liver breakdown of estrogen as well as many drugs.

Another, more recent study, found no risk of breast cancer with grapefruit consumption. No risk of using grapefruit rind or essential oil has ever been found. Yet other research shows that citrus fruits, including grapefruit, reduce the risk of breast cancer

Skin cancer, including melanoma and basal and squamous cell skin cancer, was slightly increased with total citrus intake, but not grapefruit juice alone. My speculation:  these studies aren’t able to account for significant drug interactions that may occur with grapefruit.

Bottom line:  It’s too soon to say that eating grapefruit affects breast cancer or skin cancer risk negatively and if it does, it is a very slight increased risk of skin cancer.

Grapefruit Drug Interactions

Grapefruit interacts with MANY medications.

When someone is given medicine, they are often told to avoid grapefruit due to its interaction. Not other citrus fruits like pomelos, not lemons, not oranges.  Just grapefruit.

Why would this citrus hybrid be so powerful? Grapefruit’s furanocoumarins change how the liver metabolizes many types of drugs.

These include:

  • Cholesterol medications
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Blood pressure medications like calcium channel blockers
  • Carbamazepine

Could doses of drugs be reduced with grapefruit? Would drug companies sponsor such trials?  Click here to find a fascinating study related to this. Something to ponder. Of course, this is not to be tried at home.

Grapefruit Precautions

Grapefruit juice and supplements majorly interact with medications, so don’t play around with this.  It often increases the prescription drugs you take in your body, leading to potentially serious side effects.

Grapefruit serves to slow down an enzyme in the liver called CYP3A4, which is responsible for the metabolism of a long and extensive list of drugs on the market today. This is most important for grapefruit juice and grapefruit supplements, which have concentrated grapefruit compounds like naringenin.

Some people report that citrus fruits like grapefruit increase feelings of heartburn and acid reflux while others report that citrus fruits improve stomach health.  If your stomach is sensitive to grapefruit, you should avoid it. 

Citrus oils topically should be applied at night because they can cause sensitivity or skin irritation.  If you do choose to apply grapefruit oil during the day, the bottom of the feet is a good place or where sun exposure doesn’t occur, such as under clothes.

Should We Be Asking Different Questions?

It amuses me when you go to a renowned website and it states that grapefruit may be helpful but has insufficient evidence to benefit following 20 conditions. Is the glass half empty much?

But it may help 20 conditions!  Thinking of health and our organs and tissues as closely intertwined systems; that’s what we should be contemplating, not each small potential benefit for a host of issues.

Thinking about health benefits as a whole can be downright remarkable. As I read through small but significant studies of grapefruit in humans or any health topic for that matter, I like to keep that in mind.

Conclusion

Grapefruit is one potent plant.  If you don’t take prescription medicine, it is a perfect addition to your diet for many reasons, including heart health and healthy weight.

If you do take medicine, make sure to check in with your pharmacist or health provider about interactions with grapefruit juice. Be as healthy as you can so that you need the least amount of prescription medicine possible.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.

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