Kidney Stones Meet Their Match: Citrus

When life gives you kidney stones, drink lemonade.

That’s according to a UCSD study showing that lemonade can prevent the growth of kidney stones due to its high concentration of citrate, a natural inhibitor against stone formation.

Kidney stones form when minerals become too concentrated in urine and crystallize in the kidneys.

Roger Sur, director of UCSD’s Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center, conducted an experiment in which patients drank two liters of water — which had four ounces of lemon juice — twice daily for two months.

“Lemonade’s been an anecdote for quite some time,” Sur said. “Our study specifically looked at how it can actually prevent stone formation.”

The study, conducted on participants who had a history of kidney stones, confirmed that lemonade increases citrate levels in the urine. Since citrate prevents stone formation by raising the pH of urine and buffering it from becoming strongly acidic, the lemonade works to prevent the kidney stones.

“The two big outcomes were that one, for people with low citrate levels, [lemonade] was a good method to increase those levels and, number two: decreased the amount of oxalate, and so, most importantly, the formation rate of kidney stones,” Sur said.

At the end of the study, X-ray imaging and citrate level tests demonstrated that the lemonade had reduced kidney stone formation rate while increasing the levels of citrate in urine, which was shown by comparing urine tests before and after the treatment.

“We had an initial baseline 24-hour urine test on them; we do this whenever we are looking at kidney stone patents as a procedure,” Sur said. “We look at their 24-hour excretion of citrate and other natural substances that act against kidney stones.”

Patients with low levels of citrate are usually prescribed potassium citrate in order to increase those levels.

“In the experiment we actually compared lemonade to the ‘gold standard,’ a prescription medication called potassium citrate,” Sur said. “[Lemonade] is clearly effective because it profoundly increases citrate levels.”

Readers can contact Nisha Kurani at [email protected].

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