Lactic Acid: Properties and Applications in Food and Medicine

Dorota Clapa
8 min reading
Lactic Acid: Properties and Applications in Food and Medicine
Table of contents
  • Lactic Acid is an organic compound that belongs to the group of hydroxy acids.
  • It has moisturizing, exfoliating and antibacterial effects on the skin.
  • Lactic Acid is widely used in the food industry, cosmetics and medicine.

What is Lactic Acid?

Lactic acid is also called alpha-hydroxypropanoic acid (2-hydroxypropanoic acid), wchich means that it occurs in the form of two optical isomers. It is formed in muscles and red blood cells as a result of intense physical training. It is also found in sour milk, which is where its name comes from. Lactic acid is an organic acid formed as a by-product of bacterial fermentation of sugar, cornstarch or milk whey. 

Lactic acid – properties

Lactic Acid has the form of a thick, colorless liquid, with a sour taste, and is soluble in water, alcohol and propylene glycol. It has a dual concentration, used in the cosmetic industry. If it reaches a concentration in the range of 1-10%, it exhibits moisturizing properties. On the other hand, at a concentration of 30-50%, it shows exfoliating properties, so it is mainly used in the production of strong scrubs. In addition to the aforementioned properties, Lactic Acid also has antibacterial, anti-aging and pH-regulating effects.

Lactic Acid – applications

Lactic Acid has many applications. In the food and pharmaceutical industries, it is used in antifreeze, biocides and plasticine, and is present in milk, pickled products, fermented soybeans, beer and meat. As mentioned above, Lactic Acid is also used in cosmetics – its moisturizing properties allow it to be used as an ingredient in cosmetics that provide a smooth, even and firm complexion and prevent wrinkles. Its exfoliating effect, in turn, is used in cosmetics that remove dead skin.

Lactic acid in food

Lactic acid in food

Lactic acid has a variety of applications in food production, and is one of the most common substances belonging to the category of acids and preservatives. It is mainly used as an acidifier and to regulate pH. By lowering the pH index, it preserves food. It is worth noting that Lactic Acid is used as an acidity regulator and then has the designation E-270.

One of the uses of Lactic Acid in food is baking, as it is used to acidify bread. When combined with baking powder, it leads to a reaction that releases carbon dioxide, which helps in the formation of bread.

Lactic acid is also widely used in the dairy industry. It increases the stability and volume of butter, and is also added to dairy products as it speeds up their fermentation process.

Its preservative effect is also very important for other sectors, it is mainly used to preserve fruits, which facilitates their processing.

Lactic Acid is also used in beer brewing, more specifically in mashing and wort boiling, and also improves microbiological stability.

Another interesting property of Lactic Acid is that it imparts a certain flavor to food. It improves the taste of beer, enhances the flavor of cheese, gives a pleasant taste to pickles or salad dressings. In addition, thanks to its acidic character, it gives a delicately sour taste to yogurt or various sweets.

It is also worth noting that Lactic Acid contained in dairy products or fermented vegetables increases the absorption of amino acids and minerals such as iron and calcium.

Lactic acid in medicine

Lactic Acid is also used in medicine – in the treatment of skin diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, gynecological diseases or in sports medicine.

It should be noted that Lactic Acid bacteria are used as probiotics, i.e. preparations involved in the restoration of the digestive tract, so they are used in the treatment of digestive diseases.

Lactic Acid is also useful in dermatology, as it allows the removal of thickened epidermis, and can be used in combination with salicylic acid in preparations against corns. 

Lactic acid as an important ingredient

Lactic Acid plays an important role in many industries, but it seems to be most significant in the food and medical industries. Lactic Acid not only imparts flavor, it also has preservative properties and helps in baking bread or brewing beer. It is also indirectly linked to medicine, as dairy products containing lactic acid bacteria serve as probiotics. Due to its double concentration, Lactic Acid also plays an important role in cosmetics and dermatology.

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