Malic acid is a substance found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including apples and carrots. Find out if it is really necessary to consume this supplement in powder or in pill form.
It is an alpha-hydroxy acid, a class of natural acids commonly used in topical skin care products. In addition to adding tartness to foods and beverages, the acid has been researched for a variety of health uses. Malate, the ionized form of malic acid, has a small role in the Krebs cycle, the main way our bodies generate energy.
It is also known as DL-malic acid, 2-hydroxybutanedioic acid or 2-hydroxysuccinic acid. It is sold without a prescription, since it is understood as a food supplement. However, use of this oral supplement can cause nausea, headache, dizziness, and diarrhea, while its topical form can cause redness, itching, and other problems.
What is malic acid for?
Although some research suggests that oral and topical malic acid may help with certain health conditions, high-quality clinical trials are still needed to confirm these claims.
Malic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid, which is said to be a natural exfoliant. It can be used to smooth wrinkles and fine lines, improve skin texture, cleanse pores, and improve overall skin. This is why the acid has been used in various skin care products.
A small study found malic acid to be beneficial in the treatment of melasma , a common disorder characterized by patches of abnormally dark skin. For the study, the researchers assigned people with melasma to a skin care regimen that included acid, along with vitamin C. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that using acid as a regular part of a skin care regimen the skin could help improve the appearance of melasma.
It should be noted that this study used a combination of malic acid and vitamin C. This means that although the researchers concluded that the acid was a beneficial component of the study, there is no way of knowing if the results were due to the malic acid alone, the vitamin C alone or a combination of both.
Improves sports performance
As a supplement, malic acid is taken to increase athletic performance and discourage post-exercise muscle fatigue. It is sometimes taken in conjunction with creatine, a very popular supplement for people looking to increase lean muscle mass.
A published study looked at the effects of a creatine malate supplement on long-distance runners and sprinters. After six weeks of supplementation along with physical training, the researchers observed a significant increase in growth hormone in the sprinter group, with both the sprinters and long-distance runners experiencing an increase in physical performance. For long-distance runners, there was a significant increase in distance covered.
Kidney stones are painful and can affect many people. Malic acid has been investigated for its potential role in the prevention and treatment of kidney stones.
In a study conducted in a laboratory, the acid was found to increase urine pH levels , making kidney stone formation less likely. The researchers concluded that malic acid supplementation could help treat calcium kidney stones.
According to other research, the malic acid in pears can be used to prevent the formation of kidney stones. This is because the acid is a precursor to citrate, a compound that inhibits crystal growth in the kidneys.
A 1995 pilot study found that taking this acid in combination with magnesium helped relieve pain and tenderness in people with fibromyalgia.
In the small study, researchers assigned people with fibromyalgia treatment with a placebo or a combination of malic acid and magnesium. After six months, those treated with the malic acid/magnesium combination showed significant improvement in pain and tenderness.
However, since a combination of magnesium and acid was used in the study, it is not known which was responsible for the positive results.
The use of 1% malic acid oral spray as a treatment for dry mouth has been explored. One study looked at people with dry mouth caused by antidepressants. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a 1% acid spray or a placebo. After two weeks of using the sprays, those using the malic acid spray had improved dry mouth symptoms and increased saliva flow rates.
Similar results were seen in a different study looking at acid for dry mouth caused by blood pressure medications. At the end of this two-week study, participants who used the 1% malic acid spray had less dry mouth and more saliva compared to the placebo group.
Although powdered or pilled malic acid is considered safe, some people experience side effects when using it. Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of malic acid supplements. However, more is known about the possible side effects of topical acid.
Common side effects associated with topical malic acid and other alpha hydroxy acids include rash, swelling, pigment changes, blistering, skin peeling, itching, irritation, or chemical burn. These and other side effects will usually go away once we stop using acid cream.
In contrast, there are no documented serious side effects of malic acid. Although this does not mean that serious side effects are not possible.
This year, a panel of experts reviewed malic acid and found it safe to use in cosmetics. Aside from some side effects, acid supplements are not known to cause any other safety issues. However, there is not enough information to guarantee its safety in certain groups.
For example, there isn’t enough evidence to know if malic acid is safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding . Because of this, it is best to be very careful and avoid the use of acid supplements during this stage. There is also little evidence on the use of malic acid in children .
Acid in amounts found in food is generally safe for everyone. Malic acid has also been considered safe as a food additive, flavor enhancer, and pH controller.
Due to a lack of research, there is no standard dosage for malic acid. An old fibromyalgia study used a product called Super Malic, which contained 1,200 milligrams of acid and 300 milligrams of magnesium hydroxide. This was taken twice a day for six months with positive results (although it is not known if the results were due to the acid or the magnesium).
Several studies looking at this acid for dry mouth used a spray solution containing 1% acid. The right dose for each of us may depend on why we are using malic acid and other factors such as age, gender, and medical history.
What happens if I take too much?
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that you can overdose on malic acid. The acid is also not believed to be toxic. However, the science on malic acid is limited, and there are no studies looking at its long-term use. We also do not have standard dosage information for the acid.
Foods with malic acid
Both lemons and all citrus fruits contain it. Other foods with malic acid include:
- Many fruits: apples being the richest source. Other fruits include cherries, grapes, blackberries, lychees, mangoes, nectarines, strawberries, oranges, and lemons.
- Vegetables: such as tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, and rhubarb.
- Wine and ciders (based on apples).
This acid is also commonly added to beverages, including powdered iced tea and fruit-flavored beverages. It can also be found in fruit preserves, chewing gum, hard and soft candy, as well as some baked goods. The list goes on with personal care products like toothpaste, mouthwashes, cough syrups and throat lozenges.