Malic acid is a natural substance found in fruit and vegetables - one of the richest sources being apples. It is also naturally present in your body's cells and large amounts of it are formed and then eventually broken down again on a daily basis.
It possesses many health-related benefits such as boosting immunity, maintaining oral health, reducing the risk of poisoning from a build-up of toxic metals and promoting smoother and firmer skin.
However, one of its most significant benefits lies in its ability to stimulate metabolism and increase energy production. This action is linked to the important role it plays in a process known as the Krebs cycle - named after Sir Hans Krebs, a German-born British biochemist.
Krebs won the Nobel price for physiology in 1953 for describing how a complex series of biochemical reactions takes place within the body's cells to transform proteins, fat and carbohydrates into water and energy. This process requires a constant supply of vitamins, enzymes and chemical agents such as malic acid, in order to keep it functioning properly 24 hours a day.
The Krebs cycle is vital to our very existence and without it energy production would literally grind to a halt. Therefore it is essential that you have adequate supplies of malic acid in order to promote the efficient functioning of this cycle.
In particular, malic acid's involvement in the Krebs cycle means it plays an important role in improving overall muscle performance, reversing muscle fatigue following exercise, reducing tiredness and poor energy levels, as well as improving mental clarity. These actions can make it a beneficial treatment for sufferers of fibromyalgia (which involves muscle pain, joint tenderness and poor energy levels) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which produces similar symptoms.
According to Dr Jay Goldstein, Director of the CFS Institute in the US: 'Malic acid is safe, inexpensive and it should be considered a valid therapeutic approach for patients with CFS'.
In relation to fibromyalgia, a six-month study was conducted by scientists working at the Department of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Centre in the US, to examine the efficacy of 1,200mg of malic acid plus 300mg of magnesium a day on 24 fibromyalgia sufferers. Half of the patients were given the active treatment, while the other half only received placebo.
At the end of the study, all of the patients treated with malic acid and magnesium experienced significant improvements in their symptoms - including less pain, reduced muscle stiffness and a more positive mental outlook - without any side effects.
Dr Russell, who led the team of scientists, concluded: 'The data suggest that malic acid and magnesium are safe and may be beneficial in the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia. Future studies should use malic acid at this dose and continue the therapy for at least two months'.1
Malic acid has a diverse range of beneficial actions
In addition to increasing energy levels through its involvement in the Krebs cycle, malic acid is also an effective metal chelator. This means it is able to bind to potentially toxic metals that may have accumulated in the body, such as aluminium or lead, and inactivate them. As a result, the risk of toxicity is considerably reduced, which is important as a heavy metal overload has been linked to serious problems like liver disease and brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease.
Malic acid also helps maintain oral hygiene. It stimulates the production of saliva, which reduces the number of harmful bacteria circulating in your mouth, teeth and gums. It acts as an antiseptic too, which also helps to ensure that germs in the mouth are kept to a minimum and considerably reduces the risk of infection.2
For these reasons, malic acid is commonly used as an ingredient in mouthwashes and toothpastes.
Not only that, but malic acid is also important for maintaining good skin health.
It is classified as an 'alpha hydroxy acid' - a chemical term used to describe fruit acids that are used in many cosmetics because of their ability to help exfoliate the skin and act as mild chemical face peels. These actions help your skin look healthier, younger and firmer. For a natural face peel you can apply thin slices of apple (as mentioned earlier, apples are one of the richest sources of malic acid) directly onto your skin for 20 minutes and then wash off with rose water.
What to take for best results
The recommended dosage for malic acid is 600mg capsules taken one to three times a day before food. There are no known contraindications or toxicity linked to malic acid.3
Taking magnesium alongside malic acid seems to have a much more pronounced effect on muscle fatigue. The recommended dosage for magnesium citrate is 140mg capsules taken twice a day.
1. Russell IJ, Michalek JE, Flechas JD. J Rheumatol 1995, 22(5):953-958
2. Fernandes-Naglik L, Downes J, Shirlaw R. Oral Dis 2001, 7(5):276-280
3. Abraham G, Flechas J. J Nutr Med 1992, 3:49-59