Every single cell in your body requires energy to survive and carry out its important functions. This energy is mainly provided by a molecule called ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), which must be activated by another key chemical called malic acid.
As well as playing an essential role in the production of energy, malic acid is also able to remove high levels of toxic metals that have accumulated in the body, such as aluminium and lead, and inactivate them. This latter action is extremely important as a heavy metal overload has been linked to serious problems like liver disease and Alzheimers.
Your body naturally produces its own supplies of malic acid, but levels can dwindle as a result of prolonged illness, stress, or poor diet particularly in cases where there is a heavy reliance on processed and so-called convenience foods, which contain high levels of additives and other harmful chemicals.
Most nutritionists will recommend that you increase your malic acid intake if you fall into one of these categories, in order to boost your energy levels. One of the richest dietary sources is apples. In addition, Italian scientists from the Department of Medical Pharmacology, University of Milan, have recently discovered that red grapes contain high amounts too (Falchi M, Bertelli A, et al. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Sep 6;54(18):6613-22). Sun-dried dates are another good source and have the added bonus of containing other energy-boosting minerals such as selenium (Al-Farsi M, Alasalvar C et al. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(19):7586-91).
However, upping your dietary intake alone may not be enough for those suffering from severe energy-zapping conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, recovery from major surgery or injury, depression, and age-related chronic conditions such as malnutrition. In such cases, taking a malic acid supplement may be needed in order to combat extreme exhaustion and low energy levels.
Preliminary research findings also suggest that malic acid can benefit sufferers of serious muscle diseases (myopathies), as it is able to boost the production of energy inside the muscle fibres, which helps the muscles work more efficiently (Janssen AJ, et al. Clin Chem. 2006 May;52(5):860-71). Its ability to improve overall muscle performance and reverse muscle fatigue following intense exercise has meant that it is a popular supplement among athletes.
Malic acid helps alleviate muscle stiffness and pain caused by fibromyalgia
In a landmark study conducted back in 1995, US scientists from the Department of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Centre, studied the effects of malic acid on patients with fibromyalgia (which involves muscle pain, joint tenderness and poor energy levels). The patients received 1,200mg of malic acid, plus 300mg of magnesium for several weeks
No immediate benefit was observed, but when the researchers doubled the initial dose of malic acid, the fibromyalgia patients
experienced a significant reduction in pain, muscle tenderness and stiffness, and also reported having more energy than before.
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 (Russell IJ, Michalek JE, Flechas JD, Abraham GE. J Rheumatol. 1995;22(5):953-8).
In the case of chronic fatigue syndrome, another expert, Dr Jay Goldstein, Director of the Chronic Fatigue Institute in the US, also endorses its use: Malic acid is safe, inexpensive and it should be considered a valid therapeutic approach for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.
How malic acid is proving beneficial in the fight against ageing
Another area where malic acid is showing promise is in the fight against ageing. It is classified as an alpha-hydroxy organic acid a chemical term used to describe fruit acids that are included in many cosmetics and beauty treatments because of their ability to exfoliate the skin and act as mild chemical face peels thereby revealing smoother, younger, firmer looking skin.
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.
Another anti-ageing link involving malic acid that is emerging relates to the concept of calorie restriction. Scientists have found that restricting the number of calories consumed activates key anti-ageing enzymes, which help ward off age-related diseases and ultimately help you live longer.
During the course of their research the scientists found that calorie-restriction significantly boosts the action of malic acid. While more research is needed to explore this link further, the results suggest that its presence is not only necessary for maintaining adequate energy levels, but that it may also play a role in processes that counteract the ageing process itself (Goyary D, Sharma R. Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2005 Dec;42(6):345-9).
Malic acid: What to take for best results
The recommended dosage for overcoming general fatigue is 1,200mg of malic acid each day. However, you may be better off increasing your supplies of malic acid through dietary sources first, as this may be enough in itself to boost your energy levels.
For overcoming chronic fatigue resulting from ailments such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome take between 1,200mg and 2,400mg a day. Malic acid works best when combined with elemental magnesium (take 300mg once or twice a day), and it should be taken for at least eight weeks. It is worth mentioning that dates are a good source of both malic acid and magnesium.
There are no known side effects or drug interactions associated with its use.