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Potassium Citrate vs. Gluconate: What’s the difference?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on July 5, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

Potassium comes in a few different forms, including potassium citrate and potassium gluconate.

Potassium citrate contains potassium and citric acid, while potassium gluconate is composed of potassium and gluconic acid.

Both potassium citrate and potassium gluconate may be used as food additives or supplements, but they have some slightly different applications. Both supplements can be purchased over the counter in your local drugstore or given by your doctor as a prescription.

Potassium citrate acts as a diuretic (making you pee more), and is used to manage, prevent or treat conditions such as:

  • Renal tubular acidosis (when the kidneys do not properly remove acids from the blood)
  • Kidney stones (crystal-like formations in the kidneys)
  • Low potassium levels (hypokalemia)

Potassium gluconate may be used to manage, prevent or treat low potassium levels (hypokalemia).

As a food additive:

  • Potassium citrate may be added to foods to enhance flavor, add potassium or regulate acidity. Examples of food products that may contain potassium citrate include some cheeses, margarines and jellies.
  • Potassium gluconate may be used to regulate the acidity or add potassium to a food product.

Both potassium citrate and potassium gluconate can come in liquid or dry powder forms that dissolve in water. They’re odorless, and both have a salty taste. Potassium citrate forms white or transparent crystals, while potassium gluconate forms yellowish white granules.

Potential side effects of potassium citrate and potassium gluconate include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort

Taking a lower dose of potassium citrate or potassium gluconate can help dissipate these side effects. Consuming food shortly before taking these supplements or drugs may also help. Drinking a full glass of water along with these supplements is also recommended.

References
  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Potassium citrate. Available at: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/13344
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Potassium gluconate. Available at: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/13344
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Potassium gluconate. Available at: https://www.cfsanappsexternal.fda.gov/scripts/fdcc/index.cfm?set=FoodSubstances&id=POTASSIUMGLUCONATE
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Potassium citrate. Available at: https://www.cfsanappsexternal.fda.gov/scripts/fdcc/index.cfm?set=FoodSubstances&id=POTASSIUMCITRATE
  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Food Additive Status List. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/food-additive-status-list
  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Urocit®-K (Potassium Citrate) Extended-release tablets for oral use. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/019071s012lbl.pdf

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