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2009/10/29 12:08:11 PM

Dr Peter Owira

Type 2 diabetes patients drinking grapefruit juice because of its weight reduction properties have been cautioned about consuming the juice while on the medication metformin.

Research findings by UKZN Pharmacologist, Dr Peter Owira, suggest that simultaneous intake of grapefruit juice and metformin increases the chances of lactic acidosis (a build-up of lactic acid in the body) leading to the acidification of the blood.

Dr Owira presented his findings at the College of Health Sciences Research Symposium at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine in a paper titled: Grapefruit Juice Improves Glycaemic Control but exacerbates Metformin-Induced Lactic Acidosis in Non-Diabetic Rats.

A lecturer at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Dr Owira’s research interest focuses on the molecular pharmacology of natural products. He tested the effects of grapefruit juice on glucose tolerance among metformin-induced Wistar rats as part of his PhD research in Pharmacology.

Different doses of grapefruit juice were administered to three groups of rats with one of the groups receiving a dose of metformin.

The results showed that grapefruit juice alone, or in combination with metformin, lowered blood glucose levels. However, rats that were concurrently treated with grapefruit juice and metformin had significantly elevated blood lactic acid levels.

“Our study for the first time suggests that grapefruit juice has beneficial effects on glycaemic control. Patients with type 2 diabetes who are frequently obese may benefit from grapefruit juice consumption by way of reduction in fasting blood glucose and by extension, improvement in insulin resistance but may also be exposed to the risk of lactic acidosis if on metformin therapy.

“In our study grapefruit juice appears to facilitate metformin uptake by the liver leading to increased lactate production, a serious metabolic problem that is often fatal,” Dr Owira said.

Dr Owira’s research is set to be published in a peer-reviewed international scientific journal Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, in 2009.

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