If you encountered pure malic acid, the dry powder could seriously damage your eyes, irritate your skin and affect your breathing. But for most people, malic acid is safe. It's an organic acid naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Malic acid is also produced commercially and added to foods, beverages and candy. As an acid, it does have the potential to damage teeth and cause problems in your digestive tract.
Malic Acid Overview
When used as an additive in foods and beverages, malic acid adds tartness and enhances flavors. Since its flavor is long-lasting, malic acid helps mask the aftertaste of artificial sweeteners, reports Bartek Ingredients, Inc.
On the pH scale, the most acidic score is zero, and water is neutral, with a score of 7. Malic acid has a pH of 2.97 to 3.75. It’s a little more acidic than citric acid, which is found in lemons and oranges, and significantly more acidic than ascorbic acid, or vitamin C.
Dental Erosion and Decay
Even when they’re from natural sources, acids can erode tooth enamel and increase the risk of cavities. Tooth enamel is affected by acids with a pH of 4 or lower, which includes malic acid.
You can limit dental damage by following a few steps recommended by the Minnesota Dental Association. After eating or drinking an acidic product, rinse your mouth with water or drink milk to neutralize the acid.
Contrary to what you’re taught about brushing after eating, do not brush your teeth right after finishing acidic products. Wait an hour to be sure all the acid is gone because brushing the acid may increase enamel damage.
Acids can irritate the mouth, throat or stomach, especially in people who are more sensitive. You may need to avoid foods and beverages containing malic acid for a few days if you have diarrhea or an upset stomach because the acid may cause cramps and gas and prolong diarrhea, reports Virginia Tech.
If you’re diagnosed with a gastrointestinal condition, such as gastritis, acid reflux or interstitial cystitis, foods and beverages containing malic acid may be off the menu. Acids may contribute to stomach acid reflux and irritate damage that already exists in the stomach or intestine due to inflammation.
Sources of Malic Acid
Fruits and vegetables usually contain more than one organic acid, but malic acid is the predominant acid in apples, apricots, cherries, grapes, peaches, nectarines and pears. These fruits all have a pH range of about 3 to 4. By comparison, the pH of oranges is 4, while lemon juice is around 2 to 3.
Vegetable sources of malic acid -- broccoli, carrots, peas and potatoes -- aren’t as acidic. Their pH scores are in the range of 6 to 7.
Malic acid is commonly used in sour candies, including hard candies, gummies and powders. These products represent a more significant danger to your tooth enamel because they’re held in the mouth for a long time and their pH scores are in the range of 1.6 to 3, according to the Minnesota Dental Association.
- Bartek Ingredients, Inc.: Malic Acid
- Aqion: pH of Organic Acids
- Elmhurst College: pH Scale
- Minnesota Dental Association: Pucker Up! The Effects of Sour Candy on Dental Health
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gastritis
- UC Davis Health System: Quenching the Fire of Heartburn
- Virginia Tech Schiffert Health Center: Upset Stomach and Diarrhea
- Hawkins Watts: Natural Acids of Fruits and Vegetables
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Approximate pH of Foods and Food Products
- Polynt: Safety Data Sheet: Malic Acid