Does Grapefruit Juice Protect You Against Diabetes? Exploring The Fruit As A Natural Drug

Does Grapefruit Juice Protect You Against Diabetes? Exploring The Fruit As A Natural Drug

Seemingly everyday, new medical fads appear, talking about the next big super vitamin, or the simple, natural cure to a once incurable disease. It can be hard to weed through what is real and what is fluff, and though certain treatments seem too good to be true, having a simple solution to a stressful, life-altering problem can certainly feel very enticing.

Grapefruit juice has been getting a lot of attention as a potential natural solution for people with diabetes. While early studies are promising, science moves slowly and more human studies are still needed. For the whole breakdown on grapefruit juice and diabetes, read on!

How To Keep Diabetes At Bay

While a lot of people are born with diabetes or develop it during childhood due to genetic risk factors, it’s estimated that about 50% of adult onset type 2 diabetes is actually preventable. 

The best way to keep diabetes at bay is to maintain a healthy lifestyle (and as you will later see, this is also the best way to manage diabetes if you’re diagnosed). 

Not only does a healthy lifestyle help lower risk for diabetes, it also benefits blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and overall wellness. This is important since high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity all massively raise the risk for diabetes. 

The first component of a healthy lifestyle is diet. The food we eat provides our body with the nutrients and fuel it needs, so the importance of eating nutrient-rich foods cannot be overstated. Foods that are high in sugar and/or starchy carbohydrates, as well as processed and highly-refined foods, all are capable of negatively affecting blood sugar. Any person with diabetes will need to avoid these foods as much as possible, and so any person looking to lower their risk of diabetes should limit their consumption of these as well. 

In general, a diet rich in fruits/vegetables, whole grains, lean protein (like fish), low-fat dairy sources, and healthy fats (unsaturated fat) is a healthy diet. Foods that are high in fiber slow down digestion, and therefore aid glucose control and promote fullness. They also lower the risk of heart disease. Look for whole grains and carbohydrates with a high fiber content as alternatives to refined, white grains, so as to avoid any blood sugar spikes. Realize that sugary drinks and alcohol also have a rapid effect on blood sugar, too, so sticking to water, tea, and other zero-calorie drinks is key. 

A rule of thumb is eating and drinking all things in moderation, including alcohol. Maintaining a healthy weight is a crucial way to protect yourself from diabetes, and so managing your portions can go a long way. Eating foods that will make you feel fuller for longer (foods rich in fiber and other nutrients) will help limit cravings and allow you to eat only when your body truly needs nutrients. 

Exercise is a great way to lose modest amounts of weight, while also minimizing your risk for diabetes. Regular physical activity facilitates better insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels. Combining aerobic exercise and resistance training is the optimal way to reap the many benefits of exercise, but the main point is to get moving in whatever way motivates you most. 

Symptoms and Signs To Look Out For

Getting regular screening for diabetes is the best way to make sure you are at a healthy level in terms of blood sugar. All people above the age of 45, no matter their risk factors, should receive diabetes screening every three years at a minimum. 

If you have any additional risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, family history of diabetes and/or heart disease, inactive lifestyle, or polycystic ovary syndrome, you should be screened more regularly. 

People that have prediabetes or had gestational diabetes are also at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and so should be screened at least once a year. 

The following is a list of potential signs of diabetes. 

If you notice a combination of any of these symptoms, contact your doctor and request a screening: 

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Presence of ketones in the urine
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections (gum, skin, vaginal, etc)

Take careful note of when you are experiencing symptoms, especially when they occur after eating. This may be a sign that your blood sugar is unstable. 

After a diabetes diagnosis, any steps that help protect you against diabetes will also help you manage diabetes, itself. In this case, however, you will probably be looking for other natural solutions and treatments to diabetes — anything to minimize symptoms and make you feel healthier. Grapefruit juice has shown promise as a potential natural remedy for diabetes, but more research is needed for the results to be conclusive. 

Grapefruit Juice: A Natural Remedy

In the 18th century, sweet oranges and pomelos (shaddocks) were accidentally crossed in Barbados to create what is now known as the grapefruit. Grapefruit is a citrus fruit, meaning it is rich in vitamin C and supports immune function. Grapefruit also contains a high volume of antioxidants, which protect the cells from damage and aid in cellular energy and performance. 

Grapefruit and Diabetes: In the Lab

Grapefruit has potential benefits for people with diabetes. It has a fair amount of dietary fiber and is composed of more than 90% water, so it promotes fullness and better digestion. These factors as well as the fruit’s impressively low glycemic index value show that it is unlikely to cause a spike in blood sugar, while also providing the body with essential nutrients. 

Grapefruit juice tends to have a higher glycemic load than the fruit itself, and grapefruit can interact negatively with certain medications (your pharmacist or doctor would point this out to you if you take one of these medications). Even still, one animal study asked the question of whether grapefruit juice could have an effect on diet-induced obesity, and the results demonstrated that it may be advantageous for people with diabetes.

The Study

This study, however, was performed on mice. Firstly, the mice were fed either a high-fat (60% fat) or low-fat (10% fat) diet for 100 days. In addition, the mice were given grapefruit juice or sugar water with the same number of calories as grapefruit juice. Metformin, a common medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, was also given to the mice on its own or in combination with grapefruit juice to compare the effects of grapefruit juice against metformin.

Study Results

In the mice that were fed a low-fat diet, grapefruit juice had no significant effect on weight loss/gain. However, the mice that were fed a high-fat diet plus grapefruit juice gained weight at a rate 18% lower than the mice that were fed a high-fat diet plus sugar water. It is important to note that both groups of mice gained weight, but grapefruit juice slowed the increase. So while it is unclear whether grapefruit juice can aid weight loss, it does seem to have some effect on lessening the effects of an unhealthy diet.

In addition, mice on the high-fat, grapefruit juice diet saw 13% lower fasting blood sugar levels and 72% better insulin sensitivity than their sugar water counterparts. Grapefruit juice decreased insulin resistance in mice on both the low-fat and high-fat diet. It was also just as effective as metformin in lowering blood glucose levels, and the combination of grapefruit juice and metformin worked the same as either of the two individually. 

What Do These Results Mean?

While these results are promising and introduce the need for future studies, it is important to note that the results of an animal study do not necessarily carry over to humans. For one, none of the mice actually had diabetes. The study was also funded by California Grapefruit Growers Cooperative, who have a vested interest in the results. Real science moves slowly and for these results to be conclusive, multiple clinical human trials will be needed to confirm them. 

For now, if you already have diabetes, you should not use grapefruit juice as a substitute for any diabetes medication your doctor may have prescribed. 

If you are looking to protect yourself from diabetes, a healthy diet and regular exercise are the best way to do so, though there is little harm in drinking a moderate amount of grapefruit juice with zero added sugar. 

In Conclusion

In order to keep diabetes at bay, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly. Get screened regularly if you are above 45 and/or have certain risk factors.

Early studies show that grapefruit juice may be able to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar levels, but these results are only preliminary. 

For more guides to diabetes and information resources for people with diabetes, check out the Banting blog to help you stay informed!

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3109209/

https://www.nhs.uk/news/diabetes/could-grapefruit-juice-protect-against-diabetes/

https://defeatdiabetes.org/resources/healthful-eating/fruits/grapefruit/

https://medlineplus.gov/diabetes.html

https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444

https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/healthAndWellness/index.jhtml?item=%2Fcommon%2FhealthAndWellness%2Fconditions%2Fdiabetes%2FglucoseSources.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/diet-myths#fats

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