Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Sodium Citrate Bad For You?

Also Known As: sodium salts of citric acid



Short answer

As a food additive, sodium citrate is not bad for you - as such small amounts are used. When used as a medicine, more caution should be taken. It can interact with various medications and can harm those with certain pre-existing conditions, such as hyperkalemia.



Long answer

Sodium citrate is the sodium salt of citric acid. It is commonly used in food as a flavor enhancer or preservative. It is what gives many sodas their sour and slightly salty taste. When used in foods, it is highly unlikely to cause any adverse effects, as amounts used are very small. However, sodium citrate also has medical application. In this case, there are a few things to be aware of. 

When used as a medicine, sodium citrate treats kidney problems (e.g. kidney stones) and metabolic acidosis. The latter, put simply, is a buildup of excess acid in the body's fluids. Sodium citrate has an alkalizing effect, hence its ability to stabilize body systems that are too acidic. 

While sodium citrate is usually safe, it does carry some risks. For one thing, it interacts with several different types of medicine, especially those containing aluminum. Furthermore, people with hyperkalemia (too much potassium in the blood) and/or heart problems should avoid sodium citrate. Additionally, it may cause hypernatremia, which is excess sodium in the blood. Symptoms of hypernatremia include drowsiness and weakness. In severe cases, it can even lead to seizures and death. Lastly, sodium citrate may cause an allergic reaction in some people. As with any medication, speak to your doctor if you have any other illnesses or are taking other drugs before you take sodium citrate.

Possible short-term side effects

  • allergic reaction
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • restlessness

Possible long-term side effects

Commonly found in


  • used to treat kidney stones
  • used to treat metabolic acidosis
  • preserves flavor in drinks

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Written by Jeff Volling | 02-25-2016

Written by Jeff Volling
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