(March 25) LAKELAND, Fla. — The Florida Department of Citrus has launched a Web site promoting consumption of grapefruit and grapefruit juice to lose weight.

The Web site — www.grapefruiteveryday.com — features an audio-active character named Gigi that promotes the department’s 90-Day Swimsuit Challenge.

Women who register for the challenge through the Web site will receive a $15 gift certificate to Everything But Water, a national swimsuit retailer with 35 stores in 13 states and Puerto Rico.

Nicole LeBeau, global marketing and communications manager for the department, said the challenge invites women to eat a half grapefruit with breakfast, lunch and dinner or drink an 8-ounce glass of grapefruit juice three times a day.

The challenge is based on research conducted by the Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center at the Scripps Clinic, San Diego, that found adding grapefruit or grapefruit juice to a diet can result in weight loss. The Florida Department of Citrus funded the project.

The 12-week study, led by Ken Fujioka, included 100 participants and found that eating a half grapefruit with each meal resulted in the loss of 3.6 pounds. It also found that those drinking an 8-ounce serving of grapefruit juice three times a day lost an average of 3.3 pounds. However, Fujioka noted, many participants in the study lost more than 10 pounds.

The research also uncovered a link between grapefruit and insulin as it pertains to weight management. Fujioka said it is believed the chemical properties of grapefruit reduce insulin levels and aid in weight loss.

The study, conducted in 2002 and 2003, was timely. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 64% of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese, which leads to a greater likelihood of developing life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

In addition to the 90-Day Challenge, the Web site has details on the Scripps study, success stories of women who have tried the diet and the overall health benefits of grapefruit consumption.

There also is a list of grapefruit-related cocktail recipes, such as Sweet Sass, Showstopper and Sunshine Punch. In addition, there are recipes for hors d’oeuvres and entrees, such as chicken skewers in grapefruit marinade and roasted Mediterranean vegetables with grapefruit gremolata.

The Web site also has a Tell A Friend section that features four virtual postcards that can be downloaded.

Gigi offers 90-day challenge in grapefruit pitch
The Web site at www.grapefruiteveryday.com has a Tell A Friend section that features four virtual postcards that can be sent to friends.