Tartaric Acid

Tartaric acid naturally occurs in several plants, mostly in grapes. This compound is also found in bananas and tamarinds. Basically, tartaric acid is a white crystalline organic acid. The salt of this acid is potassium bitartrate, which is commonly called cream of tartar. This substance forms naturally during the wine making process. Potassium bitartrate is generally blended with sodium bicarbonate and marketed commercially as baking powder, which is used in the form of a leveraging agent in making various different types of foods. The acid can also be added individually to foods in the form of an antioxidant and also to impart its characteristic sour flavour to foods.

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Tartaric is basically an alpha-hydroxy-carbolic acid. The acid characteristics of this organic substance is aldaric and diprotic. At the same time, tartaric is also a dihydroxyl offshoot of succinic acid. When we say that tartaric acid is a diprotic acid, it denotes that each molecule of the compound comprises two hydrogen atoms, which can be ionized in water. The salts of tartaric acid are known as tartrates.

A chemist named Jabir ibn Hayyan succeeded in isolating the first form of tartaric acid obtained from potassium tartrate during the beginning of the 19th century. This Persian-born scientist was also credited with a number of other first in chemistry. Later, in 1769, a Swedish chemist named Carl Wilhelm Scheele developed the method currently used to obtain tartaric acid.

Tartaric acid is a naturally occurring organic compound. However, these days this acid can also be produced synthetically. Basically, tartaric acid has two different forms - mesotartaric acid and levotartaric acid. Both these forms of tartaric acid can be produced artificially. Louis Pasteur was the first to create the pure form of levotartaric acid in 1847.

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Tartaric acid possesses one interesting property - it is chiral. In other words, it denotes that the internal structure of this acid doesn't have a symmetrical plane. Moreover, it has a mirror-image, which is impossible to superimpose. Often, the chiral mirror-images are also referred to as enantiomers, which can be compared to human hands. As far as composition is concerned, they are identical. However, their form is not the same.

The most widespread reason why any molecule shows chilarity is because of the presence of an unbalanced carbon atom. This carbon atom is connected with four other atoms or may be four different atom groups.

Tartaric acid is most commonly used in the form of a food additive, Often, this acid is added to particular types of candies with a view to impart a sour taste to the them. The cream of tartar, which is known as potassium bitrate in chemical terms, is generally used for stabilizing egg whites. In addition, the cream of tartar is also an active component of baking powder. Tartaric acid is also present in wine and is accountable for wine diamonds, which are basically tiny potassium bitartrate crystals that are sometimes found forming on wine corks.

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Tartaric acid is also employed in the form of an emetic with a view to encourage vomiting. This naturally occurring substance also possesses laxative properties. Moreover, this acid serves as an antioxidant. In other words, intake of this acid restricts or puts off the molecules in our body from being oxidized. This, in turn, prevents free radical formation. Free radicals are extremely harmful for our health and responsible for various diseases, including cancer.

Despite its health benefits, consumption of excessive amounts of tartaric acid may prove to be harmful, as it can be a toxin for muscles. However, when consumed in specific amounts, tartaric acid helps to hold back malic acid production in the body. Moreover, an overdose of this acid may result in paralysis or even death.

Health benefits and uses

Tartaric acid as well as its several derivatives have numerous applications in the pharmaceutical field. For instance, people have been using this acid to produce effervescent salts by mixing it with citric acid with a view to enhance the flavour of oral medication. Potassium antimonyl, which is derived from tartaric acid, is called tartar emetic and it is included in very little doses in cough syrups in the form of an expectorant.

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In fact, tartaric acid is widely used in Mexican cuisines, which virtually depends heavily on this naturally occurring acid. When tartaric acid is blended with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), it serves as a leavening agent. In addition, tartaric acid also has a vital function in brewing wine. In wine-making, this acid is used in the fermentation process for adjusting acidity with a view to make the beverage more pleasant tasting. You may also use this acid in the form of a normal preservative for fruit juices, soft drinks, candies and even specific types of jams.

Tartaric acid also has several uses other than the human body. For instance, this acid is employed in preparing cement wherein it is said to slow the pace of cement from setting, thereby allowing for a larger window for people to work. As in the case with the construction industry, tartaric acid is also used by the cosmetic industry. In the cosmetic industry, this acid is used in the form of base for several dissimilar types of products meant for topical application such as body creams and various other lotions.

Several industries use tartaric acid readily for a wide variety of reasons, but this naturally occurring acid also has a reputation for the health benefits it provides. It is said that this acid acts as an antioxidant as well as in the form of an anti-inflammatory agent, which may aid in boosting the immune system and, at the same time, promote our general wellness. This acid is especially used for enhancing glucose tolerance as well as reducing the glucose levels in general, thereby proving to be beneficial for people who are susceptible to glucose. Last, but not the least important, tartaric acid is also believed to promote digestion since it aids in enhancing absorption of nutrients from ingested foods in the intestines. In fact, it is said that this acid significantly improves the rate of assimilation of quality nutrients into the blood from the ingested foods.

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Aside from the above mentioned applications of tartaric acid, it has numerous industrial uses as was mentioned above. It has been found that this acid chelate metal ions like calcium and magnesium. As a result, tartaric acid has been used in farming as well as in metal industries in the form of a chelating agent for cleansing metal surfaces comprising iron, copper, aluminium and alloys formed from these metals. In farming, tartaric acid is used for complexing micronutrients in fertilizers meant for soils.

Tartaric acid is an excellent source of valuable antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and helps to protect us from several serious diseases. Aside from this, antioxidants reinforce immunity and help us to remain healthier and fit in due course. Hence, people who desire to enhance their overall health they are advisable to opt for more fruits containing tartaric acid. Apples and apricots are two fruits that are excellent sources of tartaric acid.

This naturally occurring acid also helps to promote digestion and, at the same time, combat flatulence. Tartaric acid promotes absorption of nutrients from ingested foods in the intestines, thereby augmenting the rate at which these nutrients are assimilated into the bloodstream.

Side effects and cautions

Similar to several other acids that occur naturally, consuming tartaric acid in excess may cause undesirable side effects. While consuming foods containing tartaric acid is unlikely to result in unpleasant side effects, taking a lot of supplements containing this acid in crystalline form can often be hazardous. The negative side effects owing to excessive intake of tartaric acid may include vomiting, feeling thirstier, abdominal pain, diarrhea and inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. People who want to reduce the intake of this naturally occurring acid will need to stay away from wine, consuming unripe fruits and any product containing tartrate as an ingredient. Tartrate is basically a sweetener obtained from tartaric acid.

Before concluding, tartaric acid may be described as a double edged blade. Tartaric acid has several different uses in various industries, which include culinary, cosmetics and construction. On the other hand, excessive consumption of this naturally occurring acid may prove to be harmful. As a result, it is advised that people who want to obtain the benefits offered by this substance but are keen to avoid the consequences of over-eating this acid should preferably stay away from foods that contain tartaric acid. In fact, taking supplements containing tartaric acid in its crystalline form is more dangerous.


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