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How Citric Acid Affects The Body

effects of citric acid - lemons in a line

How Citric Acid Affects The Body

Citric acid is found in many foods and is what gives things a tart and sour taste. It also can be manufactured to be used as a food additive. However, what are the benefits of citric acid and how does it affect the body. Continue reading to learn more about the effects of citric acid on the body.

What Is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is a chemical compound that does many things for the body. It was first discovered and isolated in 1784 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele when he crystallized it from lemon juice. Later on in 1893 Carl Wehmer, a German chemist discovered that the mold from penicillium could produce citric acid from sugar.

Where Is It Found

Citric acid is found naturally in many foods, and there is a manufactured form of it that is commonly used as a food additive. Natural citric acid can be found in many fruits. Citrus fruits are some of the best sources of it. Some example of citrus fruits are:

  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Grapefruit

While they do contain the most amounts of citric acid, they are not the only fruit that contains it. Pineapples, strawberries, cherries, and even tomatoes contain small amounts of citric acid.

The citric acid that is manufactured can be found in the ingredients of different foods, supplements, and even medicine. The reason as to why the natural acid is not used is due to the price being expensive, and the supply is far lower than the demand for it. Manufactured citric acid is recognized as safe by the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Benefits of Citric Acid

Citric acid can do many things for the body. Many of the benefits of it also come from the foods that it is found in. However, there still are some benefits that you should know. Citric acid is used to help with metabolism in the body. This means that citric acid plays a role in turning the food you eat into energy.

While it does not directly affect the body, citric acid is used as a disinfectant against many viruses and bacteria. One study showed that is a safer alternative to other cleaning products like chlorine bleach.

Kidney Stones

According to the National Kidney Foundation, “One in ten people will have a kidney stone over the course of a lifetime.” These stones can be very painful and it can be hard to avoid them.

However, one study from the Korean Journal of Urology shows that consuming foods and drinks that are high in citric acid can help prevent kidney stones and break up small kidney stones that are in the process of forming.

Fighting Gout

The Arthritis Foundation defines gout as a “form of inflammatory arthritis that develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid in the blood.” When uric acid builds up in the body, sharp crystals in a joint form and can cause pain.

One study published back in 2010, showed that citrate, a derivative of citric acid can reduce uric acid levels as well as increasing urine pH levels. This is important because when urine is at a low pH, uric acid crystals will form. This study concludes that not only can citric acid help fight gout, but it can also help prevent it altogether.

Side Effects of Citric Acid

There are many effects of citric acid on the body. Most of them only come when it is taken in excess. If you take a medicine with citric acid, it is possible to overdose on it. However, if you are eating a few oranges, the likelihood of you experiencing any of these is extremely rare. The Mayo Clinic states that in children, overdose signs include, changes in behavior, fast or deep breathing, and in severe cases drowsiness.

The University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine recommends that individuals contact their doctor at once if you experience any of these side effects:

  • Swelling or rapid weight gain
  • muscle twitching, leg pain or cramps
  • Numbness in hands, feet, or even mouth
  • Fast, Slow, or uneven heart rate
  • Weakness such as shallow breathing, dizziness, confusion, or mood changes
  • restlessness
  • coughing up blood
  • seizure

It is important to remember that this is not a full list. For a fuller list of more side effects of citric acid, please visit the University of Michigan here. Another thing to remember is that these side effects are for medicine containing citric acid and your daily multivitamin supplement, or fresh citrus fruit most likely won’t cause these side effects. However, it is important to consult your doctor before making any big changes.


When it comes to the effects of citric acid, there is a lot to keep in mind. There are good things that citric acid can do like prevent kidney stones, however, it is possible to get too much from a medicine that is prescribed by a doctor. If you get too much, it is vital to contact your doctor immediately. Be sure to also check out this article to learn about How Xylitol Affects The Body.