Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Is Adipic Acid Bad For You?

Also Known As: Hexanedioic acid



Short answer

Adipic acid, commonly used in foods as a sour flavor enhancer, pH regulator, leavening agent, and antioxidant, is considered safe by food safety authorities like the FDA and EFSA when consumed in moderation. However, overconsumption can cause side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort or potential interactions with medications. Allergic reactions are rare. Always read labels carefully, especially if prone to food sensitivities.



Long answer

Role of Adipic Acid in Food and Beverage Products

Adipic acid, while not a household name, is a key player in the food industry, primarily due to its role as a food additive. As a compound, adipic acid falls into the category of a dicarboxylic acid and is predominantly used to give foods a slightly tart flavor. It's akin to the zesty zing one might get from a dash of citrus, but without the fruit undertones.

Its place in the world of food additives is multifaceted:

  • Flavor Enhancer: One of the primary applications of adipic acid is as a flavoring agent. It imparts a desirable, slightly sour taste and is often found in beloved gummy candies and soft drinks to balance out the sweetness and give the product a more complex profile.
  • pH Regulator: Adipic acid acts as an efficient pH buffer, helping maintain the proper acidity level in certain food products. This is crucial not only for flavor stability but also for inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, which can be a concern in products like fruit juices and fermented beverages.
  • Leavening Agent: In baking, it’s sometimes used in combination with baking soda to help baked goods rise. The acid reacts with the bicarbonate, leading to the release of carbon dioxide gas, which then helps the dough to expand and become fluffy.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Its antioxidant effects can contribute to the shelf life and color preservation of food products. Considering the consumer's interest in extended shelf life without compromising quality, this feature is of particular importance.

Furthermore, from a manufacturing standpoint, adipic acid lends itself to the efficient production of processed foods. It's a stable, crystalline powder that blends well with other ingredients and doesn't react undesirably under most conditions. This makes it a favored ingredient in the high-volume world of packaged foods and beverages where consistency is key.

A testament to its role in the food industry, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have both designated adipic acid as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use in foods. EFSA assigns it the food additive number E355, making it easy for consumers who read ingredient labels to identify the compound in their products.

However, it is always essential to consider that individual tolerance can vary, and the quantity of intake matters. Overconsumption of certain food additives can lead to health issues, although most people are unlikely to ingest harmful levels of adipic acid from foods alone.

In the constantly evolving dialogue on food safety and health, adipic acid has yet to raise any significant red flags among nutritional experts. Health enthusiasts keen on clean eating might opt for foods without added artificial substances, favoring a "less is more" approach. Still, as of my last update, it's important to note that moderate consumption of adipic acid within processed foods is considered safe for the general population by health authorities.

In summary, the crafting of delightful food experiences often hinges on ingredients like adipic acid, which play pivotal, albeit behind-the-scenes roles. As we become more cognizant of the substances in our foods, it's vital to understand the function of such additives to make informed dietary decisions.

Potential Side Effects of Adipic Acid Consumption

When considering the safety of a food additive like adipic acid, it's essential to look at the potential side effects associated with its consumption. While the compound is generally considered safe for use in foods by regulatory agencies, it's important to remain informed about the ways it might affect certain individuals. Let's walk through the potential side effects that you should be aware of.

Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Some individuals who consume adipic acid may experience gastrointestinal issues. These can range from mild to moderate and may include symptoms like:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Indigestion
  • Stomach cramps

This is often due to the fact that food additives can disrupt the natural flora of the gut or irritate the GI tract – a balance that is key for digestion and overall health. Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or existing GI sensitivities should be particularly mindful when consuming products containing adipic acid.

Allergic Reactions: Though rare, there have been documented cases of allergic reactions to adipic acid. Signs of an allergic response may include:

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the lips, face, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing

In the literature, the frequency of such reactions is minimal, and for the vast majority, adipic acid does not provoke an allergic response. If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to seek immediate medical attention.

Metabolic Disorder Risks: A 2018 study published in Scientific Reports suggested that high intake of synthetic dicarboxylic acids like adipic acid might contribute to metabolic disorders, particularly in high dosages typically not found in average consumption levels from food sources. While this research highlights a possible concern at abnormal consumption rates, it's a reminder to maintain moderation as a guiding principle in our diets.

Potential Interactions with Medications: Adipic acid may also interact with certain medications. While no significant interactions have been documented so far in medical journals, the theoretical potential still exists, especially as the field of food and drug interactions expands. It's always prudent to consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about interactions with medications you're taking.

It's worth noting that the consumption of adipic acid through a normal, well-varied diet is unlikely to result in significant side effects for the average person. Nevertheless, those with pre-existing health conditions or particular dietary sensitivities should consider their intake levels of adipic acid. As with all things, individual reactions can vary, and it is crucial to listen to your body and speak with a healthcare provider if you have any unusual reactions after consuming products that contain adipic acid.

It cannot be overstated that moderation is key. While some studies have raised points of consideration, they often involve quantities far beyond typical dietary exposure, emphasizing that the dose makes the poison. Understanding your own dietary tolerances and maintaining a balanced diet are the best strategies to mitigate any potential side effects.

Adipic Acid Allergies and Sensitivities

When considering the impact of adipic acid on our health, it's crucial to address the concerns surrounding allergies and sensitivities. Adipic acid is a common food additive used primarily as an acidity regulator in various food products. Although it is generally recognized as safe by regulatory bodies, individual responses can vary significantly.

Firstly, it's essential to distinguish between allergies and sensitivities or intolerances. Allergies involve an immune system reaction, which can range from mild to potentially life-threatening. Sensitivities or intolerances, meanwhile, usually result in digestive discomfort but are not caused by an immune response.

Signs of an Adipic Acid Allergy:

  • Itching or hives
  • Swelling of the lips, face, or throat
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Anaphylaxis (in rare cases)

It's important to note that allergies to food additives like adipic acid are relatively rare. However, if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction after consuming products containing adipic acid, seek medical attention promptly.

Potential Sensitivities to Adipic Acid:

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Flushing or a change in skin color

If you have a known sensitivity to adipic acid, you might experience the above symptoms without the involvement of the immune system. Managing this condition typically involves avoiding foods and products that contain adipic acid.

For those with sensitivities, it's worth mentioning that adipic acid is also used in the production of plastics, foams, and other synthetic materials. While not directly related to food products, individuals with a sensitivity could potentially react to the presence of adipic acid in their environment.

While research specifically targeting adipic acid allergies or sensitivities is limited, it's always best to listen to your body. If you suspect that you're reacting negatively to adipic acid or any other food additive, it's advisable to consult with a medical professional or an allergist. They can perform tests to determine whether you have a genuine allergy or sensitivity, and they can suggest dietary modifications or treatments that can help.

As a precaution, always read labels carefully, especially if you are prone to food allergies or sensitivities. While adipic acid is generally safe for the majority, those with specific allergies or sensitivities will need to be vigilant to maintain their health and wellbeing.

Regulatory Stance on Adipic Acid Safety

When it comes to understanding the safety of food additives such as adipic acid, it's crucial to turn to the regulatory authorities that are tasked with the evaluation and approval of these substances. These organizations take into account scientific research, toxicity studies, and dietary exposure models to establish benchmarks for safe consumption levels.

In the United States, adipic acid has been designated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). This classification indicates that it has been reviewed by expert panels and is considered safe for its intended use in food products when consumed within recommended levels.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also maintains a positive stance on adipic acid. They have conducted meticulous reviews of the additive, concluding that it does not pose significant health risks to consumers at the levels currently used in food processing. The EFSA publishes acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels for additives like adipic acid, ensuring that consumption stays within a range that is not associated with adverse effects.

To further contextualize the regulation of adipic acid, we look at international guidelines. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) is a global expert scientific committee that evaluates food additives, amongst other substances. JECFA has evaluated adipic acid for its safety and has concluded that it is not carcinogenic and does not represent a hazard to human health when consumed at levels currently used in foods and beverages.

Beyond these regulatory bodies, local authorities may have additional guidelines or stipulations regarding the use of adipic acid in food products. However, the consensus among these leading organizations provides confidence in the additive's safety profile.

It's essential to note that these regulatory stances are based on current research and are subject to change as new studies emerge. Governments and international bodies update their regulations and recommendations in response to the latest scientific understanding. As such, the safety assessments for adipic acid, like all food additives, are under continual review to ensure public health is not at risk.

Here are some pertinent points regarding regulatory stances on adipic acid safety:

  • FDA classifies adipic acid as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).
  • The EFSA has established an ADI for adipic acid, signifying it's safe for consumption within those quantities.
  • JECFA's evaluations support the non-carcinogenic and harmless classification of adipic acid at current consumption levels.
  • Regulatory assessments are dynamic and are regularly updated to reflect new scientific data.

Consumers can refer to these regulatory benchmarks to understand the levels at which adipic acid has been deemed safe for daily consumption. However, it is always a good practice to be attentive to labels and to moderate intake of processed foods that may contain any additive, including adipic acid.

Comparing Natural and Synthetic Adipic Acid

Adipic acid, known scientifically as hexanedioic acid, is a substance that plays a multifaceted role in both the industrial sphere and culinary world. To truly understand its impact on health, one must explore the two primary forms it can take: natural and synthetic adipic acid.

Natural adipic acid exists in small quantities in certain plants and is a component in some traditional herbal remedies. Although not frequently found in high concentrations, its presence in the natural state is associated with minimal health concerns. It may even come with some beneficial properties when part of a complex natural product, such as antioxidative effects derived from the plant matrix.

However, the more common form encountered is synthetic adipic acid, which is industrially produced for a variety of uses, including as a food additive, specifically as an acidity regulator. The synthetic variant is typically manufactured through a process known as the "oxidation of cyclohexanol," which uses nitric acid and involves complex chemistry and environmental considerations due to the production of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

  • Chemical Purity: Synthetic adipic acid is often of higher purity than its natural counterpart, which can reduce the risk of contaminants often present in natural extracts. The standardized production ensures consistent quality and performance in its applications.
  • Availability and Scalability: Synthetic adipic acid is readily available and can be produced in large quantities to meet industrial demand, making it a cost-effective additive. This is particularly important in the global food industry, where consistent supply is necessary.
  • Environmental Considerations: The production process for synthetic adipic acid has significant environmental implications. Eco-conscious consumers may prefer natural sources due to the lower carbon footprint and the potential sustainability of plant-based production.

When considering the impact on health, it's essential to distinguish between these two forms of adipic acid. Scientific research suggests that in moderate consumption, synthetic adipic acid used as a food additive does not pose significant health risks and is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by many food safety authorities, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Nevertheless, studies point out that higher intakes of synthetic additives, including adipic acid, can lead to long-term health consequences. Hence, the recommendation is often to opt for whole foods with minimal added synthetic substances to ensure optimal health and wellbeing. In light of this, the demand for naturally derived adipic acid, while less common, is on the rise among health-conscious consumers who are seeking cleaner labels and fewer synthetic ingredients in their diets.

For those who are particularly sensitive or allergic to artificial additives, the natural version may be the preferred choice. However, it's important to consider the sourcing and the extraction methods of natural adipic acid to ensure that it aligns with one's health and environmental standards.

When it comes to choosing between natural and synthetic adipic acid, the decision often boils down to the personal priorities of the consumers—whether they place a higher value on the purity and consistency of the synthetic form or the holistic and environmentally-minded approach of the natural variant. A balance might be found in moderation and being cognizant of the quantities consumed, regardless of the form.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, adipic acid is commonly found in gummy candies, soft drinks, fruit juices, fermented beverages, and some baked goods. As an additive, it imparts a slightly sour taste, helps regulate pH levels, acts as a leavening agent, and can contribute to the shelf life and color preservation of these products.

Acidity regulators like adipic acid can impact the pH level of foods, which in turn could influence the stability and availability of certain nutrients. Vitamins and minerals can sometimes be sensitive to pH changes; however, adipic acid is typically used in small amounts that are unlikely to cause significant changes to nutritional content.

Adipic acid occurs naturally, albeit in small quantities, in some plants and is a part of certain traditional herbal remedies. However, the adipic acid used as a food additive in the manufacturing of processed foods is predominantly synthetic, produced industrially for its consistency and cost-effectiveness.

Adipic acid can be identified on food labels by its chemical name or its European food additive number, E355. If you're looking to avoid synthetic additives, it's important to read labels carefully, as adipic acid is frequently included in processed foods to enhance flavor or preserve freshness.

Using pimple patches that contain adipic acid overnight is generally considered safe for most people. Adipic acid is a mild ingredient used in skincare to help control acne. However, if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergic reactions, it's advisable to do a patch test before using the product extensively. Always follow the instructions provided with the product for the best results.

Ask a question about Adipic Acid and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • gas
  • indigestion
  • stomach cramps
  • hives or skin rash
  • itching
  • swelling
  • difficulty breathing

Possible long-term side effects

  • potential contribution to metabolic disorders
  • risk of allergic reactions

Commonly found in

  • gummy candies
  • soft drinks
  • baked goods
  • fruit juices
  • fermented beverages

Ingredients to be aware of

  • synthetic additives


  • flavor enhancement
  • ph regulation
  • acting as leavening agent
  • antioxidant properties
  • shelf life extension

Healthier alternatives

  • whole foods
  • foods with fewer synthetic ingredients

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 02-07-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 02-07-2024

Random Page

Check These Out!