Malic Acid for Improved Cellular Energy and Healthy Mitochondria

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  • by Nils Osmar. Updated April 19, 2024
  • This post is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. 
  • See full Medical Disclaimer

In this article, I’ll be talking about the health benefits and anti-aging benefits of a compound called malic acid.

I get a little leery of bloggers who talk about supplements playing spectacular or miraculous roles in the body. But malic acid actually comes close to fitting that description.  It’s a tart-tasting organic acid found in some types of fruit and berries, and also produced internally in the body. It’s so tart and sour that some people have a hard time figuring out how to use it. But there are several reasons some people might want to consider adding it to their anti-aging protocols. For those doing so, though, it would make sense to do so carefully, also being aware of its potential side effects.

The Krebs cycle

Malic acid plays a key role in the Krebs cycle, which provides the energy that keeps our cells in operation. It’s a component in the creation of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, a primary energy carrier which plays a role in both DNA replication and muscle contraction. 

The mitochondria

It supports a process called glycolysis in the mitochondria, which helps our cells extract energy from glucose, converting carbohydrates into energy that can be used by the body. 

Skin benefits

When applied topically, some studies suggest that it increases the hydration of the skin and the production of collagen. Skin benefits may also include fewer blemishes, fewer fine lines and wrinkles, more even skin tone, smoother skin texture, and possible improvement in acne. It’s included in a lot of skin and beauty products for these reasons, and also because it help help with removing dead cells through exfoliation.

Anti-aging benefits

Taken internally, malic acid has been found to extend the lifespan of C. Elegans, to increase NAD levels in the body, and to improve the ratio of NAD to NADH.  

Take with creatine?

One benefit is that it increases the absorption of creatine. This suggests there might be benefits in taking them together. A study published in the journal Acta Physiologica Hungarica in 2015 looked at the effects of a creatine-malate supplement on both sprinters and long-distance runners. After several weeks of supplementation, the researchers noted a significant increase in growth hormone in the sprinters, and an increase in lean muscle mass in both groups.  The long-distance runners found that there was a significant increase in how much distance they were able to cover.  

Improves cognition

It appears to increase both stamina and cognition, particularly when it’s taken along with magnesium. And one recent study found that the combination of magnesium and malic acid significantly reduced the muscle and soft tissue pain associated with arthritis. One form that combines the two compounds is magnesium malate. In this form, it has benefits for bone, joint and liver health.

Possible side effects

Malic acid is generally viewed as being safe. But it does have some side effects. One is that it can (sometimes) lower blood pressure. This might be desirable under some circumstances but problematic in others.

Another issue is the possibility of digestive upset. Malic acid is acidic, around a 4 on the pH scale. This means that when it’s ingested, it can increase the acidity of our gastric juices enough to irritate the colon, triggering the body to release water into your bowels — with the result sometimes being sudden-onset diarrhea.

The first time I tried it, I put a tiny amount (a few grains) in a spoon and then put it directly into my mouth. Even this tiny amount was so acidic it burned my tongue and I had to rush over to get a drink of water. I’ve since learned to mix it with a lot of liquid, and to start with a very small amount. For a while I was taking 1/16 of a teaspoon a day. These days, I take about 1/8 teaspoon in a glass of water, or mixed into some yogurt or other food.

Where to find it?

If you want to increase your malic acid, you can do so by taking supplements or eating more fruit and berries. Food sources include blackberries and blueberries, pomegranate, cherries and apricots, and some types of citrus fruit. Two of the richest sources are watermelon and apples. It’s also one of the organic acids found in sea buckthorn berries, which also contain quinic acid. (Malic acid and quinic acid make up around 90% of the fruit acids in sea buckthorn products.)

Because fruit is high in fructose, some people prefer to supplement with malic acid.  There are lots of good supplements; the one I’m currently buying is from Kitchen Alchemy. It’s a food grade powder designed to add to jams, jellies and other items to give them a tart taste.

Taking malic acid along with magnesium or citrulline

Malic acid has been found to work synergistically if taken along with creatine and with magnesium. I like taking creatine at the end of my workouts; I add some malate to help with absorption.

For cognitive benefits, I like taking it along with magnesium, either as magnesium malate, or by taking a scoop of malic acid along with some magnesium threonate, a special form of magnesium which crosses the blood-brain barrier.

My Youtube video about Malic Acid.

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