The Pros & Cons of Consuming Citric Acid


Is it really safe to consume citric acid? The Environmental Working Group has classified citric acid as non-toxic and not expected to be a human health issue. The FDA even gives it a “food additive” status. It appears that applying citric acid to your skin, or consuming it are not generally associated with any risks. However, some entities have thought there are some dangers. Here is a list of possible benefits and side effects associated with citric acid.

Possible Benefits of Consuming Citric Acid

  1. Anti-oxidant and Anti-inflammatory Effects. Some studies have indicated citric acid has antioxidant properties which means it may help fight oxidative stress. Other studies have shown that it can also help decrease inflammation because it reduces cell degranulation and encourages the release of anti-inflammatory agents.
  2. Alkalizing Effect. Even though its taste is somewhat acidic, citric acid is considered alkalizing. That means it may be beneficial for counteracting effects of eating too many acidic foods.
  3. Improves Endothelial Function. Research has begun to show citric acid can improve the functions of the thin membrane lining the inside of the heart and blood vessels the endothelium. It can also be beneficial for vascular relaxation and contraction, immune function, platelet aggregation, and immune function. Citrates, or the salts in citric acid are anticoagulant in nature which means they are good blood thinners.
  4. Prevent Kidney Stones. When someone has urine that is acidic, they are more likely to develop kidney stones. Citric acid in the urine protects from the formation of developing kidney stones. Alkalinizing agents like potassium citrate and citric acid reduce the acidity of urine which helps prevent gout and kidney stones.
  5. Maintain Healthy Skin. Citric acid may be found in some skin care products. It tends to help with the adjustment of acidity that promotes skin peeling and regrowth. It’s typically used in anti-aging products like masks, serums, and night creams.

Possible Citric Acid Side Effects

Is citric acid really harmful? It seems that artificial citric acid may have a few negative effects on your health. This is especially true if it is consumed in packaged foods where it is abundant. There isn’t a clear connection, but these side effects could occur.

  1. Skin Irritation. For those with sensitive skin, citric acid can be too strong and cause irritation. If it is used in cleaning products it can cause irritation to the nasal passages which could trigger asthmatic symptoms.
  2. GMO Ingredients. Artificial, or man-made citric acid is made using sugars retrieved from corn and beets. Very often, these are genetically modified.
  3. Can Make Digestive Issues Worse. You don’t have to totally avoid acidic foods and citric acid if you have low stomach acid. Some foods with acid like tomatoes, lemons, and limes can have an alkalizing effect which can trigger heartburn or ulcer symptoms. Low stomach acid is often a sign you aren’t producing enough hydrochloric acid which can be reversed by eating different vegetables.
  4. Possible Link to Mold Reactions. It’s not for certain, but citric acid created from Aspergillus might be harmful. It may impair immune function and cause allergy-like symptoms if it is inhaled.