Properties of Lauric acid
Lauric acid (systematically: dodecanoic acid), the saturated fatty acid with a 12-carbon atom chain, thus falling into the medium chain fatty acids, is a white, powdery solid with a faint odor of bay oil or soap.
Lauric acid, as a component of triglycerides, comprises about half of the fatty acid content in coconut oil, laurel oil, and in palm kernel oil (not to be confused with palm oil), Otherwise it is relatively uncommon. It is also found in human breast milk (6.2% of total fat), cow's milk (2.9%), and goat's milk (3.1%).
Like many other fatty acids, lauric acid is inexpensive, has a long shelf-life, and is non-toxic and safe to handle. It is mainly used for the production of soaps and cosmetics. For these purposes, lauric acid is neutralized with sodium hydroxide to give sodium laurate, which is a soap. Most commonly, sodium laurate is obtained by saponification of various oils, such as coconut oil. These precursors give mixtures of sodium laurate and other soaps.
In the laboratory, lauric acid is often used to investigate the molar mass of an unknown substance via the freezing-point depression. Lauric acid is convenient because its melting point when pure is relatively high (43.2 °C). Its cryoscopic constant is 3.9 K·kg/mol. By melting lauric acid with the unknown substance, allowing it to cool, and recording the temperature at which the mixture freezes, the molar mass of the unknown compound may be determined.
Lauric acid has been claimed to have antimicrobial properties.
Lauric acid has been found to increase total cholesterol the most of all fatty acids. But most of the increase is attributable to an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) "good" cholesterol. As a result, lauric acid has "a more favorable effect on total:HDL cholesterol than any other fatty acid, either saturated or unsaturated"; a lower total/HDL cholesterol ratio suggests a decrease in atherosclerotic risk.