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Biochemistry science fair project:
Test the Effect of Grapefruit Juice on Anti-Cholesterol Drugs




Science Fair Project Information
Title: Test the Effect of Grapefruit Juice on Anti-Cholesterol Drugs
Subject: Biochemistry
Grade level: High School - Grades 10-12
Academic Level: Advanced
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: High
Awards: Second Place, Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair (2005)
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair
Description: Evaluation of the effect of grapefruit juice on the pharmacokinetics of statins.
Link: http://www.virtualsciencefair.org/2005/lauc5c0/public_html
Short Background

Grapefruit is an excellent source of many nutrients and phytochemicals, able to contribute to a healthy diet. Grapefruit is a good source of vitamin C, pectin fiber, and the pink and red hues contain the beneficial antioxidant lycopene. Studies have shown grapefruit helps lower cholesterol and there is evidence that the seeds have high levels of antioxidant properties. Grapefruit forms a core part of the "grapefruit diet", the theory being that the fruit's low glycemic index is able to help the body's metabolism burn fat.

The statins (or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) form a class of hypolipidemic drugs used to lower cholesterol levels in people with or at risk of cardiovascular disease. They lower cholesterol by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which is the rate-limiting enzyme of the mevalonate pathway of cholesterol synthesis. Inhibition of this enzyme in the liver stimulates LDL receptors, resulting in an increased clearance of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from the bloodstream and a decrease in blood cholesterol levels. The first results can be seen after one week of use and the effect is maximal after four to six weeks.

Consumption of grapefruit or grapefruit juice inhibits the metabolism of statins—furanocoumarins in grapefruit juice inhibit the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP3A4, which is involved in the metabolism of most statins (however it is a major inhibitor of only lovastatin, simvastatin and to a lesser degree atorvastatin) and some other medications (it had been thought that flavonoids were responsible). This increases the levels of the statin, increasing the risk of dose-related adverse effects (including myopathy/rhabdomyolysis). Consequently, consumption of grapefruit juice is not recommended in patients undergoing therapy with most statins. An alternative, somewhat risky, approach is that some users take grapefruit juice to enhance the effect of lower (hence cheaper) doses of statins. This is not recommended as a result of the increased risk and potential for statin toxicity.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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