Getting to Know Potassium Citrate
If you’re an avid label reader, you may have noticed potassium citrate included in the ingredients list of some food and beverages. Or, perhaps your doctor or health-care provider may have recommended that you take potassium citrate as a dietary supplement.
If you’re unfamiliar with potassium citrate, its uses, and its potential side effects, keep reading. This article will answer the most common questions consumers have about potassium citrate.
What is Potassium Citrate?
“Potassium citrate is an alkalinizing agent that helps neutralize acidity and raise pH,” says Dr. Minesh Khatri, MD, FACP, a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at New York University. “Citrate is the component that drives this. Citrate can also be coupled with sodium, but it is usually the potassium citrate version that is given instead, because of more favorable effects on kidney health.”
You might be familiar with potassium, which is an essential mineral your body needs. Found in many foods (like white beans, dried apricots, and Swiss chard), potassium is responsible for controlling the activity of your heart, muscles, nervous system, and kidneys. You might also have heard of “citrate,” which is a derivative of the citric acid naturally found in citrus fruits.
Potassium citrate is not usually the form of potassium that you might see on the label of your gummy multivitamin (that’s most often potassium chloride but is sometimes potassium phosphate, aspartate, bicarbonate, and/or gluconate).
Generally, potassium citrate is used as:
- a supplement
- a food preservative
- a flavor enhancer
What Does Potassium Citrate Do for the Body?
Some patients don’t have enough citrate in the urine, or there is too much acidity in the urine, explains Khatri. In these cases, potassium citrate can help.
Potassium citrate should not be taken without first consulting your physician. It “should be taken under a doctor’s direction, who would determine how much and how long to take it for,” says Khatri. You should always read the suggested use instructions before taking any dietary supplements or medications.
What is potassium citrate in food?
But what about potassium citrate in food? Given its other uses, you might be curious.
In small amounts, “it is used as a buffering agent to adjust pH, and also changes flavor and can act as a preservative,” explains Khatri. “When potassium citrate is added to foods, it’s generally not being used to increase the nutritional intake of potassium.”
When added to foods and drinks (including those that contain milk, cream, or casein), potassium citrate is either a white granulated powder or transparent crystals. It is odorless and tends to absorb moisture from the air. Potassium citrate is also used in lemon-lime sodas, diet sodas, and lemonade beverages. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, potassium citrate is a food substance that is generally