Citric Acid Uses
Here are a few reasons why so many products contain citric acid:
- preserves and stabilizes active ingredients thanks to its antioxidant properties
- as a weak acid to adjust pH balance
Processed foods and home goods
- flavoring agent (sour) – soft drinks, candy
- preservative – baby food, jam, hummus, salsa, mayonnaise
- fermenting agent – cheese, wine
- emulsifying agent – ice cream, sorbet
- laundry and dishwasher products
- personal care products – lotion, shampoo, soap, cosmetics, bath bombs, etc.
- water treatment products
You’ll also find citric acid in the following products:
- bleaching agents
- corrosion inhibitors
- agricultural chemicals
- cleaning solvents
- printer toner and ink
- automotive products
Citric Acid vs. Ascorbic Acid
These two acids are often mistaken for one another. Both acids naturally occur in foods as discrete substances.
Ascorbic acid is the chemical name for vitamin C and the term “ascorbic acid’ is even used interchangeably with vitamin C. However, they are not necessarily the same thing. Essentially, ascorbic acid is a component of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that the body needs to: support the immune system; form and maintain skin, connective tissue, muscle, and bones; regulate blood vessels and capillaries; and contribute to proper organ function.(11)
Unfortunately, the ascorbic acid used as an additive in foods and beverages is synthetic. While synthetic ascorbic acid is molecularly the same as naturally-occurring vitamin C, it is fermented from corn starch, corn sugar, or rice starch instead of vitamin c-rich fruits. Much of the corn grown in the world is genetically modified, making corn starch another source of GMO contamination.
Additionally, although synthetic vitamin C may be chemically the same as what’s found in nature, its shape is not. Cell receptors are of a certain shape and attach to nutrients in their expected (natural) shape. Synthetic vitamins are not identical to naturally-occurring nutrients. Therefore, synthetic vitamins (not just C) don’t work the same in the body as what you get from food. (12)
Lots of people pop vitamin C tablets or powders like they’re going out of style, thinking they’re doing a good thing for their health. On the contrary: in addition to the non-medicinal ingredients found in vitamin supplements (including sugars, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors), getting too much ascorbic acid in one dose can actually cause adverse reactions. These include kidney stones, organ damage, cancer, interference with other (natural) enzymes, and increased risk for heart disease. (13)
In contrast, naturally occurring vitamin C occurs in small doses within produce and contains all the necessary enzymes and complementary nutrients for the body to appropriately absorb and metabolize it.