Health Risks of Lemon Juice

By Jessica Lewis

Fragrant and brightly colored, lemons and lemon juice are better known for their high vitamin C and potassium content than for any potential health risks. But there are some potential risks of using lemon juice -- either drinking it or using it topically to treat acne. Although these risks are relatively minor and are not life-threatening, you may still reconsider your regular use of lemon juice.

Heartburn and GERD

Known mostly for its association with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short, heartburn occurs when you feel a painful burning sensation near the top of your stomach. With GERD, you may also experience nausea and a feeling of fullness. Because lemon juice has a high acid content, it can irritate your esophageal lining even further and can exacerbate other GERD symptoms. If you have ulcers or are at risk of ulcers, the irritation from lemon juice can also be painful as it raises your gastric acid levels.

Teeth Health

Keeping you teeth healthy, strong and shiny requires good dental care and a diet rich in calcium. But your efforts may be hampered by lemon juice because the acid in lemon juice can eat away at the enamel. A study published in “Caries Research” in 1996 found that slow erosion from lemon juice can lead to stains on your teeth, increased sensitivity and, potentially, cavities if there is prolonged exposure to lemon juice. To reduce the risk of dental erosion, mix your lemon juice with other liquids or foods, and do not drink it straight.

Increased Iron Absorption

According to a study published in 1987 in the "British Journal of Nutrition," lemon juice may increase iron absorption. This was attributed to the citric and ascorbic acid content of lemons, in a study conducted on over 200 Indian women. This conclusion is also supported by Harvard University. As very little iron is excreted by your body, excess amounts can be stored in your system, potentially leading to iron toxicity. Iron toxicity symptoms can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, or, in extreme cases, death. The tolerable upper limit of iron is 45 milligrams per day for all adults.

Affects Chloroquine Levels

In the “Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy,” a study published in 1994 found that chloroquine’s availability in the body was significantly reduced when combined with lemon juice and water. Chloroquine is a medication commonly used to treat malaria, often taken by Americans traveling to tropical regions where malaria is more of a concern than in the United States. This study, conducted on healthy males, concluded that it was likely that a similar reduction in chloroquine’s effectiveness in combating malaria would also be reduced as there was less of the medication present in the body.

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