Truth About Grapefruit Seed Extract

Grapefruit seed extract. Sounds so friendly, doesn´t it? You´ve heard it touted as a “natural” preservative, and the health food store sells it in a capsule as an antifungal supplement. If everybody says that it´s natural they must be correct, right? Wrong.

Grapefruit seed extract is not grapefruit juice. It is also not grapefruit essential oil and it is most certainly not an herbal tincture. Chemical manufacturers take the leftover grapefruit pulp, a waste by-product from grapefruit juice production, and in an intensive, multi-step industrial chemical process, change the natural phenolic compounds into synthetic quaternary ammonium compounds. Typically, in chemical synthesis of this type, chemical reagents and catalysts are used under extreme high heat and pressure or vacuum. Synthetic ammonium chloride is one of the chemical catalysts used in this process.

The US Department of Agriculture´s (USDA) National Organic Program defines synthetic as “A substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources.” Grapefruit seed extract is a synthetic chemical compound, cannot be called “organic,” and is not permitted in organic food proucts.

Unfortunately, because there is no legal definition of the word “natural,” any company can put chemicals in body care products and tell you that they´re “natural.” Also, in the US, any company is free to sell any chemical compound as a “dietary supplement” without doing any pre-market or long-term safety studies of any kind.

Grapefruit seed extract has become an extremely controversial chemical compound recently. Studies conducted in the US and abroad report suspicious and abnormal chemical acitivity in numerous, randomly selected grapefruit seed extracts. Here is one report from the Institute of Pharmacy, Ernst Moritz Arndt University, Greifswald, Germany:

“The antimicrobial efficacy as well as the content of preservative agents of six commercially grapefruit seed extracts were examined. Five of the six extracts showed a high growth-inhibiting activity against the test germs. In all of the antimicrobial active grapefruit seed extracts, the preservative benzethonium chloride was detected by thin layer chromatography. Additionally, three extracts contained the preserving substances triclosan and methyl paraben. In only one of the grapefruit seed extracts tested no preservative agent was found. However, with this extract as well as with several self-made extracts from seed and juiceless pulp of grapefruits (Citrus paradisi), no antimicrobial activity could be detected. Thus, it is concluded that the potent as well as nearly universal antimicrobial activity being attributed to grapefruit seed extract is merely due to the synthetic preservative agents contained within. Natural products with antimicrobial activity do not appear to be present.”

Further, the USDA did a grapefruit seed extract study (full text here (pdf)) and declared, “Confirming an earlier study by researchers in Germany we found that some commercial grapefruit seed extracts contain benzethonium chloride, a synthetic antimicrobial agent commonly used in cosmetics and only approved for topical use, at relatively high levels of 8%.”

The Swiss Toxicological Information Center of Basel, Switzerland, reports that “Grapefruit seed extracts containing benzethonium chloride in concentrations of 7-11% represent a major health risk if larger amounts of a concentrated solution are ingested (i.e. by mouth). Exposure of the skin or the eye may cause toxic symptoms. The Swiss Toxicological Information Center discourages consumers from administration of these extracts unless it is known which of them are containing benzethonium chloride and what the concentrations are."

A “natural” and “safe” preservative or dietary supplement? Is it worth the risk to you?

1 comments:

Vita Save said...

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