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Did you mean Citric Acid or Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)?

April 9, 2020

Let’s clear this up – Is Citric acid the same as Vitamin C? And what is the relationship between Vitamin C and Ascorbic acid?

These terms could sometimes get used interchangeably so this is your ‘quick check-in’.

What is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is an anti-oxidant – one of its functions is to remove toxic material from the body.

Oxidation is a process that could lead to damage of a body’s cells.

Oxidation produces ‘free radicals’, which are chemicals that cause cell damage.

The cell damage causes changes that lead to inflammation or cancer.

Therefore, antioxidants like citric acid prevent oxidation and can ‘protect’ the cells from some types of damage from free radicals.

Citric Acid is also an alkalising agent.

This means it is able to make a solution or other material less acidic – you will see how this is useful later in the article.

Vitamin C (or Ascorbic Acid)?

Vitamins are essential elements for a healthy system.

In addition to supporting the development of tissues such as bone and muscle, studies also suggest some like Vitamin D have a link with the immune system.

Ascorbic acid is a type of Vitamin C we find in food.

But we can also create ascorbic acid from sources like corn starch or rice sugar.

It is a nutritional supplement that helps with growth and development.

Vitamin C supports the repair of the body tissues including protein growth.

It is a vital element for developing a strong immune system and fighting infection.

Similarities between Vitamin C and Ascorbic Acid

The reason for the mix up is the common natural source for both Citric acid and Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) from some types of food.

Yes as you guessed correctly: citric containing fruits are among the highest sources of both.

The other similarity between both ‘acids’ is that they are used as medicines as a result of their properties.

Properties of Citric Acid

Citric acid and its other salt forms (sodium citrate and potassium citrate) are “alkalinizing agents” that make the urine less acidic.

This helps to make the urine less favourable for problems like Kidney stones; and some germs that cause urine infections.

It may help prevent gout – and in people with kidney disease, it can also prevent a condition known as metabolic acidosis.

Remember that one of the primary functions of your kidneys is to remove toxic materials from the body.

When there is kidney disease with impairment of kidney functions, harmful acids (by-products of cell activities) may accumulate.

They cause a condition known as metabolic acidosis, which if untreated would lead to serious ill-health.

What about Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)?

Primarily, lack of vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) leads to a condition called Scurvy.

Scurvy is a serious condition that affects the whole body because the body does not have sufficient Vitamin C.

It demonstrates the importance of Vitamin C in almost every part of the body.

Scurvy may begin as a mild illness with weakness, tiredness and low-grade fever.

If untreated it progresses with damage to cell proteins leading to anaemia, bleeding gums, bruising, teeth decay and joint disease.

Other problems caused by scurvy are breathing problems, eye/vision problems, mental health and immune system problems and many more.

Scurvy affects people with poor diets low in vitamin C.

However, the condition responds well to treatment – providing Vitamin C via tablet supplements and in the diet.

Interaction with Other Medicines

Vitamin C can help boost iron absorption.

A few mild interactions may occur when you take Vitamin C with some medicines

On the other hand, be careful when you are taking citric acid with other medicines.

Examples are Aspirin, some antibiotics, antacids or other drugs containing Aluminium and certain heart medicines.

Extra care is also important when you are taking citric acid as they could make pre-existing Kidney or Heart problems worse.


To sum up, Vitamin C and Citric acid are two different medicines that come from a common source; but have different uses.

You cannot exchange one for the other – so please check you are taking the right drug for your symptoms.

More Reading:

Editing By AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through

Image Credits – Canva

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