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Grapefruit: Health Benefits, Facts, Research

The grapefruit was bred in the 18th century as a cross between a pomelo and an orange. They were given the name grapefruit because of the way they grew in clusters similar to grapes.

The fruit was first documented in 1750 by Rev. Griffith Hughes describing specimens from Barbados. Currently, the grapefruit is said to be one of the “Seven Wonders of Barbados”. It had developed as a hybrid of the pomelo (Citrus maxima) with the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), though it is rather closer to the first than the second. It was brought to Florida by Odette Philippe in 1823. Further crosses have produced the tangelo (1905), the minneola (1931) and the sweetie (1984).

The grapefruit was known as the shaddock or shattuck until the 1800s. Its current name alludes to clusters of the fruit on the tree, which often appear similar to grapes. Botanically, it was not distinguished from the pomelo until the 1830s, when it was given the name Citrus paradisi. Its true origins were not determined until the 1940s. This led to the official name being altered to Citrus x paradisi.

“Grapefruit packs in lots of nutritional goodies, supplying a heaping dose of vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium — all of which protect your heart,” says Dr. Barry Sears in his book The Top 100 Zone Foods. “Pink grapefruit is relatively rich in antioxidants, and ruby red grapefruit provides an added bonus: lycopene, the phytochemical that helps prevent the ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol from oxidizing and damaging artery walls.”

Lycopene, part of the carotenoid family, is a pigment that helps give red fruits and vegetables their color. It’s also one of the free radical-fighting antioxidants. Free radicals are damaging molecules that float around in the body disrupting cells and promoting disease. Antioxidants, such as lycopene, destroy free radicals so they can’t attach to your cells and wreak havoc on your hard-working immune system. Scientific studies show that lycopene helps prevent prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. There is also some evidence that cancers of the pancreas, colon and rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, breast, and cervix could be reduced with increased lycopene intake.

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Grapefruit is a superb winter fruit used to help treat coughs and colds, cleanse the blood and fight infections. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice contains salicyclic acid to ease pain, making it a much respected treatment for arthritis and rheumatism.

Grapefruit also contains pectin, a form of soluble fiber that has been shown in animal studies to slow down the progression of atherosclerosis. Pigs fed a high-cholesterol diet plus grapefruit pectin had 24% narrowing of their arteries, while pigs fed the high-cholesterol diet without grapefruit pectin had 45% narrowing.

In humans, drinking three 6-ounce glasses of grapefruit juice a day was shown to reduce the activity of an enzyme that activates cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. In rats whose colons were injected with carcinogens, grapefruit and its isolated active compounds (apigenin, hesperidin, limonin, naringin, naringenin, nobiletin) not only increased the suicide (apoptosis) of cancer cells, but also the production of normal colon cells.

Studies confirm that by adding grapefruit or grapefruit juice to your daily diet, you can shed those unwanted pounds.

A 12-week pilot study, led by Dr. Ken Fujioka, monitored weight and metabolic factors of the 100 men and women who participated in the Scripps Clinic “Grapefruit Diet” study. On average, participants who ate half a grapefruit with each meal lost 3.6 pounds, while those who drank a serving of grapefruit juice three times a day lost 3.3 pounds. However, many patients in the study lost more than 10 pounds.

The most important active ingredient in grapefruit that helps us to lose weight is naringin, a flavonoid compound that gives grapefruit its characteristic bitter flavor and blocks the uptake of fatty acids into cells to prevent our bodies from effectively using carbohydrates.

Another benefit: The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is vitamin C, found in many fruits and vegetables including grapefruit.
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