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AICR Food Facts  >  Foods That Fight Cancer

Grapefruit: Think Antioxidants, Not Fat-Burning

This content was last updated on March 29, 2021

The Cancer Research

Is grapefruit a fat-burner? Many people associate grapefruit with dieting to lose weight. But research suggests any weight loss help that grapefruit provides is not necessarily different than what you get from any other food that provides low calories in a satisfying portion. Regardless, grapefruit has plenty to offer beyond any connection to weight management due to the cancer-protective potential of its nutrients and phytocompounds.

If you enjoy grapefruit or grapefruit juice and take any medications, talk with your pharmacist or health care provider. Grapefruit and its juice can cause too much or too little of certain medications to reach cells in the body, either increasing the risk of side effects or reducing the medication’s effectiveness. Your health care provider might be able to switch your prescription to something unaffected by grapefruit, or advise you to manage how soon you eat it related to medication use.

Interpreting the data

After a systematic review of the global scientific literature, AICR/WCRF analyzed how fruits and their nutrients affect the risk of developing cancer.

  • There is probable evidence that non-starchy vegetables and fruit combined DECREASE the risk of:
  •  Aerodigestive cancers overall (such as mouth, pharynx, nasopharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, stomach and colorectal cancers)

“Limited suggestive” evidence means results are generally consistent in overall conclusions, but it’s rarely strong enough to justify recommendations to reduce risk of cancer.

  • Limited evidence suggests that fruit may DECREASE the risk of:
    • Lung cancer (in people who smoke or used to smoke tobacco) and squamous cell esophageal cancer
  • Limited evidence suggests that citrus fruits may DECREASE the risk of:
    • Stomach cancer (cardia type only)
  • Limited evidence suggests that non-starchy vegetables and fruit combined may DECREASE the risk of:
  • Bladder cancer
  • Limited evidence suggests that foods containing vitamin C may DECREASE the risk of:
    • Lung cancer (in people who smoke) and colon cancer
  • Limited evidence suggests that foods containing beta-carotene may DECREASE the risk of:
    • Lung cancer
  • Limited evidence suggests that foods containing carotenoids may DECREASE the risk of:
    • Lung and estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancers.
Source: AICR/WCRF. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective, 2018.

Ongoing Areas of Investigation

  • Tips for Storage and Preparation
    • For grapefruit at its juiciest, store at room temperature up to a week. Or store it two to three weeks in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before serving for best flavor.
    Preparation Ideas:
    • Rinse grapefruit before you cut into it, even if you aren’t eating the peel. Otherwise bacteria on the outside can get transferred from the knife to the portions you will eat.
    • To eat grapefruit by scooping out sections, cut the grapefruit in half and cut around each section with a sharp knife or serrated grapefruit knife.
    • Sprinkle a grapefruit half with a touch of brown sugar and broil just until bubbly.
    • You can also peel a grapefruit like an orange. Peel it with your hands or a knife, and pull apart each section by hand. In doing this, you get more fiber because you eat the membrane surrounding each section too.
    • These grapefruit sections add a delicious tang to green salads. Add avocado slices, too, for a classic combination.
    • Make salsa out of diced grapefruit, chopped bell peppers and cilantro.


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