The Ultimate Guide To Citrinin (a mycotoxin)


After writing the master blog called The Ultimate Guide To Mycotoxins I thought I would write smaller blogs on each of the main mycotoxins. Let’s look at Citrinin.

What Is Citrinin?

Citrinin (CTN) is a mycotoxin. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins, often referred to as secondary metabolites, produced by certain moulds (fungi).

What Moulds Produce Citrinin?

Citrinin is produced by the mold genera Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Monascus.

What Foods Are High In Citrinin?

According to a paper published in 2019, data available for citrinin levels in food are insufficient for reliable estimates . However foods that have been mentioned in the research include:

  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Corn
  • Barley
  • Pomaceous fruits
  • Black olive
  • Roasted nuts
  • Spices
  • Naturally fermented sausages (in one study from Italy)

The same paper however states that: “It is reasonable to believe that humans are much more frequently exposed to CTN than generally accepted, because it is produced by the same moulds as OTA, which is a common contaminant of human food all over the world.”

It is for this reason that citrinin is usually found together with another mycotoxin, ochratoxin A

Red yeast rice can contain the mycotoxin citrinin and several other substances that are not yet toxicologically evaluated. That’s right! Even our supplements may be contaminated with mycotoxins. One paper showed milk thistle to be the most common to be contaminated.

Watch my interview with Dr. Jill Crista, author of Break The Mould:


Citrinin And Human Health

Although citrinin is regularly associated with human foods, its significance for human health is unknown.

Citrinin has been shown to be toxic and carcinogenic in animals. Other adverse effects include:

  • Immunotoxicity/supression
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction by inducing oxidative stress even at low concentration/dose. Mitochondria are often described as the ‘powerhouses of cells’, due to their role in energy production.
  • Genotoxicity (damages the genetic information within a cell causing mutations, which may lead to cancer)
  • Nephrotoxicity (toxicity in the kidneys)

How Do I Avoid Exposure To Citrinin?

The World Health Organisation advise the consumer to:

  • Carefully inspect whole grains and nuts for evidence of mould, and discard any that look mouldy, discoloured, or shriveled.
  • Buy grains and nuts as fresh as possible; that have been grown as close to home as possible, and which have not been transported over a long time
  • Buy only reputable brands of nuts and nut butters – aflatoxin moulds are not entirely killed by processing or roasting, so can show up in products e.g. peanut butter
  • Make sure that foods are stored properly and are not kept for extended periods of time before being used
  • Try to ensure his/her diet is diverse; this not only helps to mitigate aflatoxin exposure, but also improves health and nutrition. Consumers who lack dietary diversity need to pay extra attention to minimize the risk of high exposure to aflatoxins. For example, extensive aflatoxin exposure has been reported from areas where people get a major part of their daily calorie intake from maize; this foodstuff is commonly contaminated with aflatoxins and needs to be handled properly both before and after harvest.

However, this is not considering the mycotoxins that might be produced from water-damaged buildings – really the most common cause of mould illness. In these situations, leaving the property may be needed. There are other considerations that be considered also, as I appreciate this is sometimes just not achievable. Check out my article The Ultimate Guide To Mycotoxins for more information on this.

Great Plains Laboratory state that the three most common exposure routes to Citrinin are through ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact

How Do You Remove Citrinin From The Body?

Check out my article The Ultimate Guide To Mycotoxins which discusses interventions to support the detoxification of mycotoxins. Options include the supplementation of:

  • Binders such as activated charcoal
  • Anti-fungals such as oregano oil
  • Probiotics
  • Liposomal glutathione.

Listen to Dr. Ann Shippy share her knowledge on mycotoxins and mould related illness:

Climate And Mycotoxins

A paper entitled Aflatoxins in the Soil Ecosystem: An Overview of Its Occurrence, Fate, Effects and Future Perspectives states:

“Current regulations provide minimal options for the disposal of aflatoxin-contaminated crops, amongst which is the incorporation of residues into the soil for natural degradation. This form of mycotoxin loading into the soil could potentially change its physicochemical characteristics and biotic parameters. Recent studies suggest that as climate conditions change, the occurrence and geographical distribution of aflatoxins might increase, posing significant health risks to the soil ecosystem, food crop production and human health.”

Learn from Vivien’s recovery story:

How Do I Test For Citrinin

Books On Mycotoxins

Practitioners to follow:




Share this post