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Ascorbic Acid vs. Citric Acid: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 18, 2023
Ascorbic acid is vitamin C essential for human health; citric acid is an organic acid found in citrus fruits and used as a preservative.

Key Differences

Ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C, plays crucial roles in various bodily functions, including collagen synthesis and immune system support. Citric acid, on the other hand, is a weak organic acid naturally present in citrus fruits and is widely used in food and beverages for its tangy flavor.
While ascorbic acid is pivotal for human health, preventing diseases like scurvy and aiding in wound healing, citric acid mainly serves culinary and industrial purposes, acting as a flavoring and a preservative agent.
Ascorbic acid, when consumed, acts as an antioxidant, defending the body against free radicals and supporting overall health. Citric acid, in contrast, doesn't possess these antioxidant properties but is beneficial for its ability to balance pH levels in various products.
In the market, ascorbic acid can be found in dietary supplements and skincare products because of its health and skin benefits. Citric acid, however, is commonly found in sour candies, soft drinks, and even cleaning agents due to its acidic nature.
From a chemical perspective, ascorbic acid has a different molecular structure compared to citric acid. While both are acids, they differ in their composition, uses, and benefits to the human body.

Comparison Chart

Primary Source

Synthesized by most plants/animals
Found in citrus fruits

Common Name

Vitamin C

Primary Use

Dietary supplement
Flavoring and preservative

Health Benefits

Antioxidant, prevents scurvy
PH balancer in products

Chemical Formula


Ascorbic Acid and Citric Acid Definitions

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid aids in collagen synthesis.
Skincare products often contain ascorbic acid to promote skin health.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is a weak organic acid.
Lemons are sour because they contain citric acid.

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is vital for immune system function.
Taking ascorbic acid supplements can help boost one's immunity.

Citric Acid

Citric acid aids in pH balance in products.
Shampoos may contain citric acid to ensure the right pH level.

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid acts as an antioxidant.
Ascorbic acid protects cells from damage by free radicals.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is employed in the culinary world for its sour flavor.
Many chefs use citric acid to add a tangy kick to their dishes.

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is crucial in preventing scurvy.
Sailors carried citrus fruits to prevent scurvy due to their ascorbic acid content.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is used as a preservative in foods.
Citric acid helps keep canned foods fresh for longer periods.

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin.
Many fruits are rich in ascorbic acid, providing essential nutrients.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is derived from citrus fruits.
The tangy taste of citrus beverages is due to citric acid.


Can citric acid be used as a source of vitamin C?

No, citric acid doesn't provide vitamin C benefits.

Can ascorbic acid prevent colds?

While ascorbic acid can boost immunity, it's not a guaranteed prevention for colds.

Is the sour taste in lemons due to citric acid?

Yes, citric acid gives lemons and other citrus fruits their characteristic sour taste.

Why is ascorbic acid added to skincare products?

Ascorbic acid has antioxidant properties and aids in collagen synthesis, benefiting the skin.

Why is ascorbic acid added to food products?

Ascorbic acid can act as a preservative and retain the color of certain foods.

Why is citric acid added to candies?

Citric acid is added for its tangy flavor and as a preservative.

Does our body produce ascorbic acid?

No, humans cannot synthesize ascorbic acid and must obtain it from dietary sources.

How does ascorbic acid benefit the immune system?

Ascorbic acid supports the production of white blood cells and acts as an antioxidant.

Does ascorbic acid have antioxidant properties?

Yes, ascorbic acid acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radicals.

Is ascorbic acid the same as vitamin C?

Yes, ascorbic acid is the chemical name for vitamin C.

Is citric acid harmful to consume?

In moderate amounts, citric acid is safe and even beneficial. However, excessive amounts can cause tooth enamel erosion.

Can citric acid cause allergies?

Rarely, some individuals might have a sensitivity or allergy to citric acid.

Can ascorbic acid help with wound healing?

Yes, ascorbic acid aids in collagen production, which is essential for wound healing.

What happens if I consume too much citric acid?

Excessive citric acid can lead to stomach upsets and tooth enamel erosion.

Can citric acid be used as a cleaning agent?

Yes, citric acid can dissolve mineral deposits and is used in some cleaning products.

Is ascorbic acid found in oranges?

Yes, oranges are a rich source of ascorbic acid or vitamin C.

What foods contain citric acid as an additive?

Sodas, canned foods, and sour candies often have citric acid as an additive.

Is citric acid natural or synthetic in food products?

Citric acid can be both naturally derived from fruits or synthetically produced for commercial use.

How does citric acid affect the pH of a product?

Citric acid can lower the pH, making products more acidic.

Can I take ascorbic acid supplements daily?

Yes, but it's best to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate dosages.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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