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What is Malic Acid?

By Douglas Bonderud
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Malic acid is a dicarboxylic acid found in many sour or tart-tasting foods. When eaten, it produces a mellow and persistent sour taste. The most common source of this compound is unripe fruit. This acid is also produced within the human body as a part of the citric acid cycle. The salts of malic acid, known as maltates, are an important intermediary step in the cycle.

This acid was originally isolated in an apple by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1785. In 1787, Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, a French chemist, suggested that the newly-discovered acid be named acide malique after the Latin word malum, for apple. Malic acid is crystalline in structure, colorless, and soluble in water.

The most common use of the acid is in food products, notably in candy and potato chips. Sour candies often use it rather than its sweeter cousin, citric acid, as the sourness is more intense. Salt and vinegar flavored potato chips also use it to produce a tart, vinegar-like flavor. Foods that contain large amounts of the acid often bear a warning, stating that eating large amounts of the product can cause soreness in the inside of the mouth.

Malic acid is also used as a supplement. The acid is involved in cell metabolism and the derivation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which plays a central role in the energy production rates of all cells in the body. It is used to treat fibromyalgia (FM), which causes intense pain in muscles and tendons. The acid aids in muscle performance and reduces muscle fatigue, and therefore assists in managing the pain caused by FM for many patients.

This sour acid also has the benefit of being an efficient metal chelator, which means it is able to securely bond with toxic metals, such as aluminum or lead, that are present in the body, limiting their abundance. Also, malic acid aids in dental hygiene, by acting as an antiseptic and encouraging saliva production. For this reason, it is found in many varieties of mouthwash.

In addition, this acid is also utilized by many skin care products. When applied to the skin, it tightens the pores, increasing the skin's smoothness and limiting the signs of any wrinkles or lines. Malic acid is considered safe for use, but can have several side effects. Skin rash, hives, or feeling a tightening in the chest can all be the result of excessive consumption of this compound.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon998859 — On Sep 08, 2017

Yes, it comes in capsule form. They call it an apple.

By anon995602 — On May 12, 2016

It's terrible for tooth enamel. I've observed that malic acid is much worse than citric or tartaric on my soft, worn, teeth.

By anon963528 — On Jul 30, 2014

Where can I buy malic acid?

By anon924635 — On Jan 06, 2014

HO2CCH2CHOHCO2H: I was hoping someone could simplify this.

By anon344399 — On Aug 09, 2013

Malic acid is present in Dannon's fruit yogurt (such as their Light and Fit line).

By anon314422 — On Jan 18, 2013

Who produces malic acid in United States?

By anon313967 — On Jan 15, 2013

@SnowyWinter: I've seen supplements and bulk powders available online.

By healthy4life — On Nov 18, 2012

Malic acid fermentation is used in wine making. My cousin makes his own wine, and he learned all he could about the science behind it before beginning.

Wine definitely does have a sharply sour taste. I hate the way it makes my tongue pucker!

I would much rather get my malic acid from an unripe apple. I like the extreme tartness and the fact that it is a good source of fiber and vitamins.

By OeKc05 — On Nov 18, 2012

I had no idea that there was a treatment for fibromyalgia! I know an elderly lady who suffers from it, and she just takes pain pills. I need to tell her about the malic acid supplement, because she really needs to get off those pills.

By seag47 — On Nov 17, 2012

@wavy58 – You know, I believe that any food with noticeable amounts of malic acid in it is slightly addictive. I notice that I eat a lot more chips at one time if they contain malic acid.

I recently bought some pickle flavored chips. At first bite, the taste put me off a bit, but after eating a couple more of them, I just couldn't stop!

It's even worse if I'm eating them with a hamburger, which goes so well with the flavor of pickles. I eat way too many, and the roof of my mouth gets irritated and inflamed!

By wavy58 — On Nov 17, 2012

@anon224893 – Isn't it crazy that those extremely sour candies are kind of addictive? The first time I tried one, I hated it, but I was so intrigued by it that I had to try it again.

After that, I became hooked. Malic acid provides an extreme workout for the taste buds, and apparently, mine appreciated the exercise!

By browncoat — On Oct 24, 2012

@anon136883 - I doubt it. I don't know the science, but if it was able to do any good to people who suffer from dementia they probably would have already used it. And considering how much people eat malic acid already, I would think any good it could do was already being done.

Also, I'm not sure if you could really introduce something like malic acid past the blood brain barrier without actually injuring something in the brain. If it can injure your mouth, I would think it could injure elsewhere as well.

By indigomoth — On Oct 24, 2012

@anon224893 - I remember those! I once gave one to my father without telling him what it was. He was mad afterwards but it was worth it to see the look on his face.

I did hear on the news recently though that candy like that can actually really hurt a person's mouth. Kids in particular are vulnerable because they might not be able to tell the difference between something just tasting very sour and something actually doing damage to the membranes of your mouth.

So, if your kids like sour candies, make sure they know the potential dangers and keep an eye on them. Mouth ulcers can really hurt.

By anon278335 — On Jul 06, 2012

If you need Malic Acid fast, go out and buy some 7up; it's full of the stuff.

By anon224893 — On Oct 24, 2011

Just watched a show on the food network. The secret ingredient to make the classic candy "Warheads" so sour is malic acid. After the candy is made, with sugar, water and corn syrup it is then cooled to 70 degrees then coated with carnuba wax and malic acid. They said they use the maximum amount as allowed by law. My mouth was watering just watching the show because Warheads are so sour.

By anon136883 — On Dec 24, 2010

I understand that Malic acid removes aluminum from the body aluminum is found in the brains of those with dementia. Can it cross the blood brain barrier and remove it?

By chrisinbama — On Dec 11, 2010

@snowywinter: I am a big believer in malic acid. I just recently learned that malic acid plays a huge role in muscle performance. It can reverse muscle fatigue and give you more energy. Magnesium and malic acid are currently being used together for patients suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome with great results.

You can purchase it in capsules. I get mine from my pharmacy. Most health food stores carry them, as well.

By SnowyWinter — On Dec 09, 2010

Where can I buy malic acid? Also, does it come in capsule form?

By cmsmith10 — On Dec 08, 2010

@stormyknight: This is the formula for malic acid:

HO2CCH2CHOHCO2H

By StormyKnight — On Dec 07, 2010

I am taking a chemistry class and I need to know the malic acid formula. I have looked it up but seem to be finding conflicting information. Does anyone have the correct formula? Thanks.

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