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Personal Health: News and Notes

Grapefruit's surprising effects

Grapefruit can affect the response of 85 drugs, including cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, new anti-cancer agents, and some synthetic opiates and psychiatric drugs, as well as some birth control pills and estrogen treatments. (The list is at

For 43 of the 85 drugs, consumption with grapefruit can be life-threatening, said Canadian researcher David Bailey, who compiled the list. Many are linked to an increase in heart rhythm, known as torsade de pointes, that can lead to death. It can occur even without underlying heart disease and has been seen in patients taking certain anti-cancer agents, erythromycin and other anti-infective drugs, some cardiovascular drugs like quinidine, the antipsychotics lurasidone and ziprasidone, gastrointestinal agents cisapride and domperidone, and solifenacin, used to treat overactive bladders.

Taken with grapefruit, other drugs such as fentanyl, oxycodone, and methadone can cause fatal respiratory depression. The interaction also can be caused by other citrus fruits, including Seville oranges, limes, and pomelos; a published report suggests that pomegranate may raise the potency of some drugs.

Older people may be more vulnerable, because they are more likely to be both taking medications and drinking more grapefruit juice. The body's ability to cope with drugs also weakens with age, experts say.

Someone taking simvastatin (Zocor) who also drinks a 200-milliliter (6.7-ounce) glass of grapefruit juice once a day for three days could see blood levels of the drug triple, raising the risk for rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle that can cause kidney damage.

Patrick McDonnell, clinical professor of pharmacy practice at Temple University, said most patients suffering adverse reactions are consuming large amounts of grapefruit. "There's a difference between an occasional section of grapefruit and someone drinking 16 ounces of grapefruit juice a day," he said.

And, he cautioned, "Not all drugs in the same class respond the same way." While some statins are affected by grapefruit, for instance, others are not.

It is not enough to avoid taking your medicine at the same time as grapefruit. You must avoid consuming grapefruit the whole period that you are on the medication. - New York Times

The skinny on family meals

Family dinners can boost children's intake of healthy fruits and vegetables, a new study finds. Children who regularly dine with their families are also more likely to meet the World Health Organization's recommended daily intake of five 2.8-ounce portions of fruits and vegetables a day, according to the British study published online Dec. 19.

The researchers looked at the diets of more than 2,000 London primary-school children. Their parents were asked to say how often their families ate meals together.

Compared with children who never ate meals with their families, those who sometimes ate meals with their families consumed an average of 3.4 ounces more fruits and vegetables every day, while those who regularly ate meals with their families consumed an average of 4.5 ounces more per day, the study found.

Parents' eating habits also counted. Children whose parents ate fruits and vegetables daily ate an average of 3 ounces more than kids whose parents rarely or never did so.

Children whose parents always cut up their fruits and vegetables also ate about 2 ounces more per day than those whose parents did not help. "The key message . . . is for families to eat fruit and vegetables together at a mealtime," the team concluded. - HealthDay

Cheese, veggies good snacks

Kids who were served vegetables and cheese ate 72 percent fewer calories than kids given just chips. The effects were more pronounced among overweight or obese children, according to a study last week in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers from Cornell University randomly sorted 201 children from the Chicago area in grades 3 to 6 into four groups: just chips, just cheese, just vegetables, cheese and vegetables. The kids were told the study was about their TV watching while snacking.

Dense snack foods are thought to be a major factor in childhood obesity. Children today eat an average of three snacks a day, compared to one snack 30 years ago.

Children given potato chips and Cheetos ate 620 calories. The cheese-only kids ate 200 calories. The veggie-only kids ate 60, and the combination snackers ate 170 calories.

If children ate cheese and vegetables in place of dense snack foods, "snacking could be a good source of fiber, protein, and calcium," the researchers wrote. - Los Angeles Times