Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) has been shown to exert antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant activity possibly due to the presence of naringenin, the flavonoid with cytoprotective action on the gastric mucosa. No study so far has been undertaken to determine whether this GSE is also capable of preventing acute pancreatic damage induced by ischemia/reperfusion (I/R), which is known to result from reduction of anti-oxidative capability of pancreatic tissue, and whether its possible preventive effect involves an antioxidative action of this biocomponent. In this study carried out on rats with acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis induced by 30 min partial pancreatic ischemia followed by 6 h of reperfusion, the GSE or vehicle (vegetable glycerin) was applied intragastrically in gradually increasing amounts (50-500 microl) 30 min before I/R. Pretreatment with GSE decreased the extent of pancreatitis with maximal protective effect of GSE at the dose 250 microl. GSE reduced the pancreatitis-evoked increase in serum lipase and poly-C specific ribonuclease activity, and attenuated the marked fall in pancreatic blood flow and pancreatic DNA synthesis. GSE administered alone increased significantly pancreatic tissue content of lipid peroxidation products, malondialdehyde and 4-hydroxyalkens, and when administered before I/R, GSE reduced the pancreatitis-induced lipid peroxidation. We conclude that GSE exerts protective activity against I/R-induced pancreatitis probably due to the activation of antioxidative mechanisms in the pancreas and the improvement of pancreatic blood flow.