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Is Grapefruit Juice Bad for Your Kidneys?

By Kathryn Gilhuly ; Updated July 18, 2017

Grapefruit juice by itself isn’t inherently bad for your kidneys. But if you combine grapefruit juice with statins, a cholesterol-lowering drug, you may incur serious kidney damage, including possible kidney failure. If you take any kind of medication, either prescription drugs or over-the-counter supplements, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you can safely take them with grapefruit juice.

Statins and Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit juice slows the metabolism of some medications. It blocks a metabolizing enzyme -- CYP3A4 -- from efficiently breaking down some drugs, including statins. A single glass of grapefruit juice could reduce your body's ability to metabolize statins by 47 percent, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Statins known to react adversely with grapefruit juice include atorvastatin, simvastatin and lovastatin. If you drink grapefruit juice while taking these statins, you increase your risk of side effects, including muscle damage that could lead to kidney failure.

Grapefruit Juice and Kidney Failure

In December 2004, registered nurse Amy Karch published an article in the “American Journal of Nursing” about a man whose grapefruit juice consumption led to his death from kidney failure. The man took atorvastatin. In an effort to improve his cardiovascular health, he started dieting and exercising. During a winter vacation in Florida, he picked fresh grapefruit daily and squeezed his own grapefruit juice. He drank two to three glasses of grapefruit daily for two months. He ended up in a hospital emergency room, complaining of fever, fatigue and muscle pain. He developed kidney failure and died.

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Chronic Kidney Failure

One cup of grapefruit juice contains 400 mg of potassium. If you suffer from chronic kidney failure, the potassium in grapefruit juice could worsen your condition. Better choices include apple juice and grape juice. If you have chronic kidney disease, you should also avoid foods with added salt, including canned vegetables and salty snacks, and follow a low-protein diet.

Other Drug Interactions

Grapefruit juice can cause dangerous side effects with other medications besides statins. Some examples include calcium channel blockers, birth control pills, antidepressants, some antivirals, immunosuppressants, anti-anxiety medications and other psychiatric drugs. Possible side effects include blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. Before consuming grapefruit juice with your medication, consult a doctor about whether this is safe.

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