The Truth About Apple Cider Vinegar
Is apple cider vinegar really the fountain of wellness? Does it really do all the things people claim it does? Like boost metabolism, burn fat, aid digestion and more? Are there any risks to consuming it? Let’s find out the truth about apple cider vinegar from a registered dietitian (me!).
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) comes from apples that have been crushed, distilled, then fermented with yeast and bacteria into vinegar. It is essentially fermented apple juice. Typically, ACV is used in cooking, and can often be found in recipes for things like marinades, homemade salad dressings, vinaigrettes and more.
Some varieties of apple cider vinegar contain “the mother”. You might notice it as the cloudy, murky substance at the bottom of your apple cider vinegar bottle. You can also see it at the bottom of kombucha bottles. The mother is the term for the bacteria added to the distilled apple juice in order to ferment it and create vinegar. ACV that contains the mother is said to be the healthiest, as this bacteria is assumed to act like a probiotic.
Historically, apple cider vinegar has been around for thousands of years. It was used as a homeopathic treatment for preventative measures and the healing of various ailments and illnesses. But does this serve as evidence that this stuff actually works? Unfortunately, no.
So, let’s see what the research has found.
Health and Wellness Claims about Apple Cider Vinegar:
It helps with weight loss.
As a society, we’re pretty obsessed with weight loss. So of course this is the apple cider vinegar claim I see the most. Health and fitness gurus will swear that taking apple cider vinegar boosts metabolism and “burns fat”. Thus, helping with weight loss. But is there any truth to this?
The research that does exist on apple cider vinegar and weight loss is limited in terms of both quantity and quality of studies. One small Japanese study found that consuming 15-30 mL (1-2 tablespoons) of ACV (diluted in water) per day was associated with small amounts of weight loss. The participants saw 1-2 kg (2-4 pounds) lost over 3 months. This is really mild weight loss, and more studies are needed.
Another study saw greater weight loss results with ACV consumption. However, the apple cider vinegar was consumed as part of a multi-supplement regimen and all participants were also on a restricted calorie diet. So what really caused the weight loss? The ACV or the low calorie diet? I think the diet.
Additionally, claims have been made around apple cider vinegar and appetite suppression. However, it’s really not clear whether ACV contains appetite-suppressing compounds or if reduced appetite is a result of just how bad it tastes. In this small study, consumption of vinegar did decrease appetite, but because it caused participants to feel nauseous. I’ve taken ACV shots before and can confirm that I definitely felt sick afterwards.
The bottom line: There is not enough evidence to support the claims that apple cider vinegar will help you lose weight. Please remember that there is no quick fix, specific food, drink or supplement that will cause weight loss. And if ACV does suppress appetite, there’s a good chance it’s because it makes you feel sick.
It lowers your blood sugar.
While more research is needed, a systematic review of studies did see that vinegar can help improve rises in blood glucose and insulin levels after eating.
Why does this happen? Acetic acid is the main compound in vinegar. You know, the one that gives vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell. It is thought that acetic acid may have the ability to suppress the digestion and absorption of starch, leading to a slower spike in blood glucose and insulin levels after eating.
Despite this research, ACV is still not recommended as a way to manage or treat diabetes and it is definitely not a replacement for diabetes medications.
The bottom line: Vinegar alone will not lower your blood sugars, and that eating well and making healthy lifestyle choices will always be more important.
It improves digestion.
This one is debatable. It’s assumed that if you consume apple cider vinegar that still contains “the mother” (mentioned above), you’re consuming good bacteria, also known as probiotics.
Unfortunately, this isn’t quite true. For a food or supplement to be considered a probiotic, there is actually specific criteria it must meet. Meaning, the specific bacteria in the food or supplement has to have been proven to provide a health benefit. Sadly, apple cider vinegar has not been proven to do so. While it may provide beneficial bacteria for digestion, claims that ACV has probiotic benefits are not supported. So if you do want probiotics, things like probiotic yogurt, kefir or a probiotic supplement are your best bet.
Also, some people claim that ACV reduces bloating. Once again, there’s no evidence to support this claim. My guess? A lot of those who take apple cider vinegar also follow a pretty healthy lifestyle. And eating adequate fibre, eating less commercially prepared foods, staying hydrated and exercising regularly can all make you feel less bloated. So no, it’s not the vinegar shots.
The bottom line: The benefits of adopting an overall healthy lifestyle will always outweigh the benefits related to one single food, drink or supplement. Frankly, the truth about apple cider vinegar is that there’s not one magic cure that will solve all your digestive problems. In fact, because digestion is so individual, what works for one person may not work for you.
It improves your skin.
Nope. None. There is no research out there to support that consuming apple cider vinegar helps improve or “clear up” your skin. I saw an influencer on TikTok make this claim just yesterday. Gah!
Now, similar to reducing bloat, eating lots of produce and drinking lots of water can contribute to your skin health. The reality is that the wellness influencers who take ACV and make these claims are probably practicing several health habits, and there’s no way to pin point that vinegar alone changed their skin.
As for using ACV on your skin… talk to your dermatologist. That’s not my area of expertise.
The bottom line: The evidence to support taking apple cider vinegar to improve your skin just isn’t there.
Is there a downside to taking Apple Cider Vinegar?
Now, it is important to remember that apple cider vinegar is an acid, so drinking daily it raises the possibility of eroding the enamel on your teeth. If you are going to take it, dilute it in water and drink with a straw.
Some research conducted in mice found that giving high doses of apple cider vinegar was associated with cell damage to the liver, stomach and small intestine. So it is recommended that if you do consume ACV, to dilute it and only stick to 1-2 tablespoons per day.
The Truth About Apple Cider Vinegar:
The truth is, there is still no “quick” fix for things like weight loss, better blood sugars, skin, digestion and more. There is little research out there on it to support claims made, and taking it might also make you pretty miserable.
Personally (and based on the existing literature), I don’t think drinking apple cider vinegar is worth it. That being said, it likely won’t harm you. Keep in mind that you don’t have to drink it – you can use it in your cooking. Try adding it to a homemade vinaigrette or marinade if you want to try it.
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What are your thoughts on this post The Truth About Apple Cider Vinegar? Have you tried taking apple cider vinegar before? I’m interested to hear your experience! Let me know in the comments below.