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Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is also referred to as milk acid or 2-hydroxypropanoic. This compound forms following the breakdown of glucose under specific conditions in living creatures or a few varieties of bacteria. Lactic acid is very important for human begins. It helps to produce energy needed for rigorous exercises, besides helping in specific liver functions. When one is undertaking very intense physical exercise, lactic acid may develop excessive as well as temporary burning sensation in your muscles. In fact, lactic acid may also be present in specific dairy products like yogurt. It may also be found in some types of wines and beers, in addition to sourdough breads. This is primarily a fall-out of fermentation.

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An organic compound, lactic acid has the chemical formula CH3CH(OH)CO2H. This compound may occur as a white hued solid or a transparent liquid. It dissolves in water readily. Aside from the naturally occurring lactic acid, it is also produced artificially. Since lactic acid has a hydroxyl group flanking the carboxyl group, it is categorized as an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA). When it is in the state of its conjugate base known as lactate, this acid performs various roles in many biochemical processes.

In 1780, a Swedish chemist named Carl Wilhelm Scheele was the first to refine lactic acid from sour milk. The name of this acid has been derived from the Latin term "lact", which denotes milk. Several years later, Jöns Jacob Berzelius found in 1808 that lactic acid (precisely known as L-lactate) can also be produced due to the exertion of the muscles while undertaking rigorous physical activities. Later, in 1873, Johannes Wislicenus established the structure of lactic acid.

In 1856, noted French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur not only discovered Lactobacillus, but also found its role in preparing lactic acid. Since 1895, German pharmacy Boehringer Ingelheim started producing and marketing lactic acid commercially.

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Primarily, lactic acid is present in sour milk products like yogurt, laban, koumiss, kombucha, some varieties of cottage cheeses and kefir. In fact, lactic acid helps to curdle (coagulate) the casein present in fermented milk. In addition, lactic acid is also accountable for the sour tastes of sourdough breads.

Some varieties of beer, especially sour beer, deliberately include lactic acid. Usually, these beers are brewed naturally by a variety of bacteria strains. Different from yeasts, these bacteria ferment sugars to produce acids. On the other hand, yeasts ferment sugar to produce ethanol. One such beer brewing style is known as Belgian Lambics. While brewing this style of beer, the wort is allowed to cool down and subsequently, bacteria and yeast are allowed to drop into the open fermenters. On the other hand, most brewers who make common style beers would make sure that no bacteria are allowed to get into the fermenters.

The process involved in winemaking, often natural or controlled bacteria are used for converting the naturally present malic acid into lactic acid. This is done to lessen the sharpness of the wine as well as for other issues related to the beverage's flavour. This type of malolactic fermentation is attributed to the lactic acid bacteria family.

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Several nations, including the United States, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand have approved the use of lactic acid in the form of a food additive. This substance has been listed by its E number E270 or the INS number 270. Lactic acid has various different applications. It is widely used in the form of a food preservative, flavoring agent and also a curing agent. If often forms a vital ingredient in many processed foods, in addition to being used in the form of a decontaminant while meat processing. Commercial production of lactic acid is done by fermenting carbohydrates like sucrose, glucose or lactose. Alternatively, it can also be produced through chemical synthesis. On the other hand, the process uses carbohydrate sources like sugar cane, beets, and corn.

Health benefits and uses

When lactic acid is produced in our body, it encourages the production of glycogen as well as glucose in the liver. Glucose as well as glycogen are vital sources of energy for our body. This helps the body to undertake all necessary bodily functions properly.

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When the body releases lactic acid during an exercise schedule, our body is able to spend additional calories to absorb it. In addition, lactic acid is also useful in using up dietary carbohydrates quickly, thereby augmenting calorie burning. This acid is also extremely useful in lowering body weight.

In fact, lactic acid helps to stimulate the pituitary gland to secrete additional growth hormone. In this way, lactic acid helps improved physical growth.

When the body has absorbed the released lactic acid, the body gradually works to process as well as utilize this fuel for carrying out other normal functions. During the workout sessions that follow, the body's metabolism improves significantly. This is because when the body absorbs the released lactic acid, the muscle become stronger and even the general aerobic ability of one's body is increased.

Normally, lactic acid is removed from the muscle tissues in just 30 minutes after undertaking any physical activity. This acid is also used by the kidneys, liver, and heart as an energy source. In the liver, lactic acid is converted into glucose, which is subsequently discharged in the blood stream so that the muscles can use it. In addition, some of the lactic acid in our body is converted to glycogen and stored for future use.

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The lactic acid which is released in our body promotes the endocrine system. This, in turn, leads to the production of additional natural anti-aging serum, which helps the body to combat the wilting effects of aging. As a result, our skin looks youthful, while the overall health of the body improves.

Lactic acid helps to increase the duration for which one can undertake exercises, thereby improving the stamina and tolerance for exhausting exercising schedule. In fact, it also helps to enhance the ability to endure such rigorous exercises.

Findings of a number of studies have revealed that secretion as well as utilization of this acid aid in enhancing the secretion of the male sex hormone testosterone. Therefore, the more one exercises, the more lactic acid is released in the body. In turn, this leads to more production of testosterone and an improved sex life.

Lactic acid formation helps us to remain healthy - both physically and mentally. Therefore, it is suggested that you start exercising on a regular basis, as this will help your body to obtain higher levels of energy fuel from released lactic acid. At the same time, it will ensure better health.

Aside from the above mentioned health benefits of lactic acid, it is highly important as far as the manner in which we adjust to stress. Provided lactic acid is managed properly, it is probably among the most crucial keys to success in athletics, especially in high intensity sports. A study undertaken on rats swimming at elevated intensity has revealed that lactate has an invigorating influence on the release of the male sex hormone testosterone. In addition, release of more lactic acid in the body is an indication that more human growth hormone (hGH) is being secreted from the pituitary gland. This is a good sign for our overall health, as secretion of these hormones usually decline as people age. However, it is yet to be ascertained whether or not the lactate ion is responsible for this. There are chances that the strenuous exercises also often result in the release of hGH. However, there certainly seems to be a correlation between the two.

In a way lactic acid also has a number of culinary applications. This acid is widely used in a variety of foods like beverages such as fruit juices and soft drinks, bakery products, confectionery items, meat products, dairy products, salads, ready meals, dressings and many others. When added to foods, lactic acid works as a preservative or a pH regulator. In addition, this acid is also used in form of a flavoring agent.

You can use lactic acid in a variety of foods like poultry, fish and meat as a form of potassium lactate or sodium lactate to prolong the shelf life of the product. In addition, adding lactic acid to these foods also helps to control pathogenic bacteria, thereby ensuring food safety. It also improves the flavour of meat, enhances the water binding ability of meat and, at the same time, reduces sodium content.

Since lactic acid has a mild taste, it is commonly employed in the form of an acidity regulator in various beverages, for instance fruit juices and soft drinks. Moreover, lactic acid is useful in putting of various foods from getting spoilt. Some such foods include pearl onions, gherkins, olives and many vegetables that are preserved in brine.

You can use lactic acid to preserve salads and dressings. This will impart these foods a milder flavour and, at the same time, will ensure that their microbial stability and safety are maintained.

When you are formulating fruit gums, hard-boiled candy and any other confectionery item, add some lactic acid to them to obtain a mild acidic flavour. In addition, lactic acid will help to enhance their quality, lessen their stickiness and ensure a longer shelf life.

Lactic acid is a very common substance used in sourdough bread. This acid imparts the bread its typical flavour and, hence, it can also be used directly for acidification during the process involved in making sourdough. Aside from sourdough, lactic acid is also used to improve the savoury flavours of a wide range of foods. This acid occurs naturally in meat, while dairy products use lactic acid in a very interesting manner to improve its savoury flavours.

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