(HealthDay News) — Hydroxycitrate, a natural fruit extract available as a dietary supplement, may dissolve a key component of kidney stones, potentially offering a new prevention tool against the condition, according to a study published online in Nature.

It’s too early to be sure if the compound hydroxycitrate will become a preventive treatment for kidney stones, since extensive research in humans hasn’t begun. Still, it could offer an alternative to potassium citrate, which treats kidney stones but has side effects, the study authors explained.

In the new study, researchers evaluated hydroxycitrate, a natural fruit extract available as a dietary supplement, and found that it did a better job of slowing the growth of calcium oxalate crystals than potassium citrate. Hydroxycitrate appears to form a stronger bond with the crystals, helping to break them up. The study authors briefly tested the supplement in humans, but more in-depth research is needed. There’s no information now about long-term safety and dosages.

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The study’s lead author, Jeffrey Rimer, PhD, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston, called the findings promising. If it works in people, “similar to our trials in the laboratory, hydroxycitrate has the potential to reduce the incidence rate of people with chronic kidney stone disease,” he said in a university news release.

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1. Chung J, Granja I, Taylor MG, Mpourmpakis G, Asplin JR, and Rimer JD. Molecular modifiers reveal a mechanism of pathological crystal growth inhibition. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature19062.