(July 15) Overreaction. That describes the advisory on the consumption of grapefruit issued by Health Canada.

The warning came out amid increased attention from the media and health care professionals concerning grapefruit’s effect on a few prescription drugs.

In its June 21 advisory, Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, urged patients suffering from 14 diseases, ranging from AIDS to cancer to infections, to avoid grapefruit until they consult their physician or pharmacist.

Because grapefruit has been shown to affect some of the medications for those diseases, that’s understandable.
But the advisory did not stop there. It continued: “Also as a precaution, AVOID taking any drug with grapefruit juice until you have asked you doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to do so.”

That’s going overboard.

Let’s face it, a significant number of Canadians, as do their counterparts to the south, take prescription medications daily. Almost everybody takes them at some time. And they all know how difficult and time consuming it can be to consult with their doctors or pharmacists. Many of these Canadians will read the warning and simply stop eating grapefruit and stop drinking grapefruit juice.

The advisory also will prompt sensationalistic sound bites on television news programs and the same sort of headlines in the tabloids.

Such reactions may not be the intent of Health Canada’s advisory, but you can safely bet that it will be the outcome. Health Canada overreacted with its warning, and the truly unfortunate result will be that many Canadians will deprive themselves of the healthful attributes of the fruit.
That’s a shame.