Is citric acid bad for you? Possible side effects you should be aware of before taking it or using it in cleaning

Citric acid is an extremely versatile product that is used for cleaning but also as a food additive. Like many other substances, it is not free from possible side effects and contraindications (albeit rare)

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We have told you several times about citric acid, a product that we particularly like as it is economical, ecological and perfect for our domestic cleaning. The food industry also often uses it as an additive. But does it have any possible disadvantages?

Citric acid is a truly versatile substance that we can use at home as a detergent in many contexts: from cleaning windows to sanitary ware (it is an anti-limescale) up to use in the washing machine as a softener and descaler. Read also: Citric acid: how to use it and why prefer it to vinegar in cleaning

If you are careful to always read the labels of what you buy, you will have realized that citric acid, in the form of a food additive (E330), is present in many commonly used products (fruit juices and various drinks, sweets, preserves, snacks, etc.) where it is used for different purposes.

Citric acid acts as:

  • Acidity regulator
  • preservative
  • Flavoring
  • Flavor enhancer
  • chelating agent

But it is also found in some cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or the chemical industry.

In a completely natural way, however, citric acid is found in citrus fruits, with different concentrations based on the variety, cultivar and stage of ripeness. The lemons and limes are particularly rich in it.


Contraindications and side effects

Given that it is contained in various industrial products, as well as naturally in some foods, the doubt of many consumers is whether citric acid can have contraindications or side effects.

We specify immediately that problems can arise almost exclusively if you abuse foods or drinks that contain it. The only risk in this sense is the possibility that this highly acidic substance will go to spoil tooth enamel, as also pointed out by a research published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation.

To limit the problem, you can simply use two tricks: drink acidic drinks with a straw (for example orange juice) and postpone tooth brushing for at least half an hour after consuming acidic foods.

Other types of fears, especially of its alleged danger as a food additive (news that appeared in France years ago), have been denied by the Veronesi Foundation which recalls:

The E330 additive is actually citric acid. Contained in many fruits, especially lemons and oranges, it is also one of the metabolites that our cells produce in aerobic metabolism.

It is therefore not a potentially dangerous additive, as nitrites and nitrates or other controversial substances can be. Among other things, it is contained in very low doses, even if it is true that it is present in a large quantity of products.

Only in very high doses (really hard to reach) It may cause the following side effects:

  • Mouth, esophagus or stomach ulcers
  • Kidney damage
  • Blood pH imbalance
  • Cramps
  • Weakness

A separate case is that of people allergic to this substance that when they take citric acid they can see:

  • Urticaria
  • Difficult breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat

A 2018 study also found that foods, drinks or vitamins containing citric acid can cause the following side effects in some people:

  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Articolar pains
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Muscle pain and enervation

However, not all experts are convinced of its complete safety of citric acid used as an additive. In a previous article we told you about the opinion of Maria Vila, a doctor at the Chambers Center of Well Being in the United States, who states that exposure to mycotoxins (microscopic waste products left by the fungus with which citric acid is artificially produced using certain sugars) could lead to breathing problems, chronic fatigue, allergies, and other health problems.

Irritation problems or asthma symptoms, says the expert, can appear if citric acid is present in beauty or cleaning products. Read also: Citric acid: everything you need to know about the food additive present in food and drinks (E330)

Precautions for using pure E330 or citric acid for cleaning

If you use pure E330 or citric acid for cleaning it is good to use the following precautions instead:

  • Do not allow direct contact with the skin (always use gloves)
  • Avoid breathing the dust emanating from it
  • Avoid accidental contact with eyes

Drug interactions

Citric acid can also interfere with some medications such as antacids, anticholinergics, NSAIDs, laxatives, and more. To know the possible interactions it is always good to consult your doctor.

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Fonti: Food Additives /Toxicology Reports / Journal of Oral Rehabilitation/ Fondazione Veronesi /

Read also:

  • Mozzarella with citric acid and without rennet. A new test reveals the brands that use some "help"
  • Vinegar: when NOT to use it in cleaning and what to replace it with
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