Chances are you consume malic acid as part of your daily diet because it’s a natural organic acid found in many fruits and vegetables. The food industry also uses malic acid as an additive that enhances natural fruit flavors and adds tartness to beverages. When sold in supplemental form, malic acid is primarily intended to help boost energy.
Malic Acid Basics
Apples are the richest source of malic acid; it's partially responsible for the fruit's tart flavor. While other foods have a smaller amount, malic acid is the primary organic acid in a variety of fruits and vegetables, including apricots, grapes, pears, bananas, potatoes, peas, carrots and broccoli.
Some supplements are made with malic acid extracted from apples, but it's also commercially produced using different methods, including fermentation. When certain types of yeast ferment sugar, including the beneficial yeast found in brewer's yeast, they synthesize malic acid as a byproduct.
Malic acid is essential for a vital step in the biochemical chain reaction that produces energy. Its role in energy synthesis is especially important when levels of oxygen are low, which occurs during extensive muscle activity. Low oxygen in muscles is also a hallmark of health conditions such as fibromyalgia, so malic acid is sometimes recommended to help treat symptoms associated with this health condition.
Improves Mineral Absorption
Malic acid works as a potent chelating agent, which means it naturally binds with some minerals. Your body absorbs significantly more of the mineral when it’s chelated with malic acid. While chelated supplements provide some malic acid, the amount you'll get usually isn’t reported on the label.
Calcium and magnesium are two minerals commonly chelated with malic acid. In this form, they're called calcium malate and magnesium malate. Magnesium is also a key part of energy production, which means magnesium malate may be a good choice for fighting fatigue, notes the University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine.
Potential Side Effects
Malic acid supplements are generally considered to be safe. No side effects have been reported, and malic acid isn’t known to interact with prescription medications, according to the University of Michigan Health System. However, don't consume more than the dose stated on the label. Also try to buy products with a U.S. Pharmacopeia or NSF International seal, which indicates the brand was tested for quality.
It’s also important to remember that your body normally produces all the malic acid it needs for energy. Talk to your doctor before relying on supplements if you feel lethargic or have any health concerns.