Saturday, August 29, 2009

Acid and human health

A large family of compounds that taste sour and can neutralize bases to create salts. Strong acids like hydrochloric acid (STOMACH ACID) and sulfuric acid (battery acid) give up all of their protons in water and lower the pH, the effective hydrogen ion concentration. A pH of 7.0 is neutral, that is, neither acidic nor basic, while pH values less than 7.0 are considered acidic. Exposure to strong acids tends to damage cells and tissues. The stomach is the only organ normally exposed to strong acids, but it is protected from injury by a heavy mucous layer.
In contrast to strong acids, organic acids are classified as weak acids because they donate only a portion of their hydrogen ions, lower the pH to a lesser degree, and are less dangerous to tissues.
Many compounds in foods are weak acids, including CITRIC ACID, ACETIC ACID, and TARTARIC ACID. Several weak acids are used as FOOD ADDITIVES, including benzoic acid, CARBONIC ACID, and alginic acid. As food additives and recipe ingredients, weak acids add tartness to foods. Weak acids are common intermediates, products of cellular processes that sustain life, including LACTIC ACID, KETONE BODIES, PYRUVIC ACID, acetic acid, FATTY ACIDS, SUCCINIC ACID, citric acid, even the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. GLUTAMIC ACID and ASPARTIC ACID (two common AMINO ACIDS) are classified as acidic amino acids, and are more acid than most.
In the body, weak acids characteristically have lost all their hydrogen ions and exist as a family of anions (negatively charged ions) classified as “conjugate bases” because they have been completely neutralized by the buffer systems of blood. In the blood, lactic acid exists as its anion, lactate; acetoacetic acid (a ketone body) as acetoacetate; citric acid as citrate, and so on. Often the names of acids and their anions are interchanged in nutrition literature.

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