Acetic Acid

Background & Properties

Acetic Acid Molecule

Acetic acid is a synthetic carboxylic acid with antibacterial and antifungal properties. Although acetic acid’s mechanism of action is not fully known, the un-distorted acid may enhance lipid solubility allowing increased fatty acid accumulation on the cell membrane or in other cell wall structures. Acetic acid, as a weak acid, can inhibit carbohydrate metabolism resulting in the subsequent death of the organism. (1)

Acetic acid is one of the simplest carboxylic acids. In households diluted acetic acid is often used as a cleaning agent. In the food industry acetic acid is used as an acidity or pH regulator. The acetyl group, derived from acetic acid, is fundamental to the biochemistry of virtually all forms of life. When bound to crucial enzymes it is central to the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. However, the concentration of free acetic acid in cells is kept at a low level to avoid disrupting the control of the pH of the cell contents. Acetic acid is produced and excreted by certain bacteria, notably the Acetobacter genus and Clostridium acetobutylicum.

What’s so Special about Acetic Acid?

Let’s start with acetic acid’s claim to popularity: vinegar. We use vinegar for so many things – for cooking, cleaning, laundry and many other household uses, like unclogging drains. It is also used in a popular science project – the volcano science experiment – where the lava is vinegar reacting with baking soda colored in red food coloring.(2) Vinegar is most definitely a cook’s friend. It is so important in the kitchen that we may even have many different types of vinegar: balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red and white wine vinegar, and more.

Acetic acid occurs naturally as part of various chemical reactions in foods and our own bodies. It’s a product of oxidation of certain alcohols and excreted by certain bacterias. These bacteria are found universally in foodstuffs, water, and soil, and acetic acid is produced naturally as fruits and some other foods spoil. Acetic acid is also a component of the vaginal lubrication of humans and other primates, where it appears to serve as a mild antibacterial agent. (3)

Digestive Health

Benefits of Acetic Acid

Acetic acid is a sort of like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Its uses are often extremely safe for virtually everything while attacking the very things that try to harm us.  The global demand for acetic acid is about 6.5 million metric tons per year.(4) Its uses and benefits are seemingly endless, these include:

Medical Properties

  • Increases Metabolism
  • Regulates Blood Sugar
  • Improves Digestion
  • Antibacterial Agent
  • Balances pH levels in skin and hair

Main Uses

  • Weight loss
  • Skin care
  • Haircare
  • Household cleaning agent
  • Cooking ingredient
  • Food Condiment
  • Natural food preservative

In one small study, people who ate a buttered 3-ounce (85-g) bagel and orange juice—a high-glucose breakfast— saw their blood sugar shoot up in the next hour. But when they also drank about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (with artificial sweetener added to improve the taste), their blood sugar levels after the meal were 50 percent lower!

Another study from Arizona State University showed that subjects who took 20 grams of apple cider vinegar, 40 grams of water, and 1 teaspoon of saccharin with each meal had 34% lower postprandial (after-meal) glucose compared to controls. (5)


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  1. “Acetic acid | CH3COOH – PubChem.”
  2. “Vinegar Uses – Cleaning with Vinegar – ALL YOU –”
  3. “Acetic acid | CH3COOH – PubChem.”
  4. “Acetic acid – Wikipedia.”
  5. “Apple Cider Vinegar and DiabetesDiabetes Self-Management.” 25 May. 2011,


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