This Morning: Dr Chris reveals grapefruit can affect statins
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Statins are a group of medicines that can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is a waxy substance that can gum up your arteries, thereby hiking your risk of heart disease. Any intervention aimed at lowering LDL cholesterol is therefore to be welcomed. However, the cholesterol-lowering drug can interact with certain dietary decisions.
The most commonly reported dietary interaction is grapefruit juice.
Grapefruit or grapefruit juice affects some statins. one of the most adverse interactions can occur simvastatin, a commonly prescribed statin.
“Grapefruit juice increases the level of simvastatin in your blood and makes side effects more likely,” warns the NHS.
The health body continues: “Atorvastatin [another type of statin] interacts with grapefruit juice if you drink large quantities (more than 1.2 litres daily), but an occasional glass is thought to be safe.”
Currently, healthcare professionals advise it is safe to drink grapefruit juice and eat grapefruit if you’re taking other types of statins, it adds.
According to health body AXA Health, furanocoumarins – a group of chemicals found in grapefruit – are responsible for this effect.
AXA Health explains: “It is known that grapefruits contain a group of chemicals, furanocoumarins, which can alter drug metabolism – the amount of time it takes for a drug to be broken down by the body.”
According to the health body, furanocoumarin inhibits an enzyme (cytochrome P450 3A4) that breaks down statins.
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“This can result in more ‘active’ drug to be present in the body than was intended with the prescribed dose therefore triggering unpleasant, and sometimes serious, side effects (e.g. rhabdomyolysis).”
Rhabdomyolysis is where the tissues of your muscles become damaged and painful.
Side effects to expect
Side effects can vary between different statins, but common side effects include:
- Feeling sick
- Feeling unusually tired or physically weak
- Digestive system problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion or farting
- Muscle pain
- Sleep problems
- Low blood platelet count.
It’s important to note that many people who take statins experience no or very few side effects.
“Your doctor should discuss the risks and benefits of taking statins if they’re offered to you,” explains the NHS.
The risks of any side effects also have to be balanced against the benefits of preventing serious problems.
A review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.
There are natural means of lowering high cholesterol too.
Eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise can help lower the level of cholesterol in your blood.
There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.
According to cholesterol charity Heart UK, cutting down on saturated fat and replacing some of it with unsaturated fat is a great way to lower your cholesterol.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
Mostly found in oils from plants and fish, unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
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