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Malic Acid vs. Maleic Acid: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 23, 2023
Malic acid is a naturally occurring organic compound found in fruits, while maleic acid is a synthetic industrial chemical used in various applications.

Key Differences

Malic acid is naturally found in many fruits and is responsible for their tart taste. Maleic acid, on the other hand, is not found naturally in foods and is usually produced industrially.
Malic acid is a dicarboxylic acid with a more complex structure, while maleic acid has a simpler dicarboxylic acid structure.
Malic acid is commonly used in the food industry as an additive to enhance flavor and preserve foods. Maleic acid is used in the manufacture of polymers, resins, and as a precursor to other chemical compounds.
Malic acid is generally safe for consumption and is used in various food products. Maleic acid, while not typically toxic, is not used in food and is mainly found in industrial and chemical applications.
Malic acid tends to be more soluble in water and has a less harsh taste compared to maleic acid.

Comparison Chart


Naturally occurring in fruits
Synthetically produced

Chemical Structure

More complex dicarboxylic acid
Simpler dicarboxylic acid


Food additive, flavor enhancer
Manufacture of polymers, chemical precursor


Safe for consumption, used in foods
Not used in foods, mainly industrial use

Solubility and Taste

Highly soluble, less harsh taste
Less soluble, harsher taste

Malic Acid and Maleic Acid Definitions

Malic Acid

Plays a role in the Krebs cycle in human metabolism.
Malic acid is important in energy production within cells.

Maleic Acid

Has specific uses in agricultural and textile industries.
Maleic acid is utilized in certain agricultural chemical formulations.

Malic Acid

A natural acid found in fruits, contributing to their tart taste.
The tartness in apples is due to malic acid.

Maleic Acid

An organic compound used in industrial and chemical applications.
Maleic acid is used in the production of certain types of resins.

Malic Acid

Used as a food additive for flavor enhancement.
Malic acid is added to candies to give a sour taste.

Maleic Acid

Produced synthetically, not naturally occurring in foods.
The maleic acid used in this process was synthesized in a laboratory.

Malic Acid

Often used in skincare products for its exfoliating properties.
Her skincare routine includes a malic acid-based exfoliant.

Maleic Acid

Found in products like coatings, polymers, and adhesives.
The adhesive contains maleic acid as a key component.

Malic Acid

Can be used as a preservative in food products.
Malic acid helps to preserve the freshness of certain beverages.

Maleic Acid

Used as a precursor in the synthesis of other chemicals.
Maleic acid is important in the manufacture of certain pharmaceuticals.


Is malic acid natural?

Yes, it's naturally found in fruits and also can be synthetically produced.

How is malic acid produced?

Commercially, it's produced through the hydration of maleic anhydride or fumaric acid.

Can malic acid be harmful?

In large quantities, it may cause skin irritation or digestive discomfort, but it's generally safe in food-grade amounts.

What are the uses of malic acid?

It's used in food as a flavor enhancer, preservative, and pH regulator.

What's the difference between L-malic and D-malic acid?

L-malic acid is the naturally occurring form, while D-malic acid is a synthetic mirror image with different properties.

Can malic acid improve exercise performance?

Some studies suggest it might help with endurance and reduce muscle fatigue.

What is maleic acid?

Maleic acid is an organic compound used mainly in industrial settings.

What foods are high in malic acid?

Apples, cherries, and grapes are some examples.

Is maleic acid found in nature?

It's not commonly found in nature and is primarily a synthetic chemical.

What is malic acid?

Malic acid is an organic compound found in fruits, especially apples, and is responsible for their tart taste.

Is malic acid good for skin?

It's used in skincare for its exfoliating and hydrating properties.

Does malic acid affect dental health?

Excessive consumption can erode tooth enamel due to its acidity.

Can maleic acid be harmful?

Yes, it can be irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

What is the difference between maleic acid and fumaric acid?

They are isomers, having the same formula but different arrangements of atoms and properties.

Is maleic acid soluble in water?

Yes, it's highly soluble in water.

Can maleic acid be used in food?

It's used as an acidity regulator but is less common than malic acid.

How is maleic acid handled in industrial settings?

With precautions like protective equipment due to its irritant properties.

How is maleic acid produced?

It's typically produced by the oxidation of benzene or butane.

What are the health effects of maleic acid?

High exposure can lead to irritation and respiratory problems.

What are maleic acid's main uses?

It's used in the manufacture of polyester resins, coatings, and as a food additive.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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