What is apple cider vinegar?
It’s made by fermenting the sugars from apples which turns them into acetic acid – this is the active ingredient in vinegar that is researched. You may see both cloudy or clear vinegars in the shops, labeled as filtered or unfiltered. The unfiltered products contain something known as ‘mother’, which apparently has more proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria in it, giving the vinegar its cloudy appearance. There is not enough research at the moment to demonstrate whether the ‘mother’ variety is any better than the clear.
What’s good about this stuff?
1) If you fancy your dentist, drinking this stuff will give you a great excuse to keep going back!
2) If you need something sharp to wake you up in the morning, this may do the trick.
3) It’s a good way to spice up your meals without adding salt
4) It contains very small amounts of potassium, copper and magnesium – minerals help turn the food we eat into energy and support controlling the movement of fluids into and out of cells.
5) It provides a small amount of amino acids (building blocks for protein) and antioxidants, which help slow the process of cell damage.
So what does the research say?
1) Will it help with weight loss?
The evidence to support weight loss is mixed and in general, there is very little research conducted on humans. There has been some evidence that vinegar may help to increase the feeling of fullness when consumed with a high-carb meal, which could help with weight loss by preventing overeating later in the day.
A 12-week study conducted on 155 Japanese individuals also found a reduction in body weight, BMI and visceral fat in obese individuals who drank between 15-30mls per day.
Final verdict: More research is needed before we can confidently make the claim that apple cider vinegar helps with weight loss. If you are very patient and don’t mind drinking vinegar every day for months this may be a great option for you. If you’re looking for either quicker or more sustainable weight loss, I’d suggest taking a look at your diet as a whole or working with a registered dietitian.
2) Will it help lower your cholesterol?
There appears to be no research that has been conducted in humans to demonstrate whether it can support lowering cholesterol. One study has been conducted on rats which demonstrated
To date, only research in animal studies has demonstrated that apple cider vinegar, and its antioxidant chlorogenic acid, can help manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which is not robust enough for us to say that this would also be the case in humans.
Final verdict: No studies have been conducted in humans so we don’t know.
3) Will it help my blood sugar levels?
There have been a number of small studies that have demonstrated how vinegar could help improve insulin sensitivity in both healthy subjects, and those with insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone which helps control our blood sugar, therefore, if we are more sensitive to it, then that’s a good thing. One study included a small number of participants (29), identified that drinking 20ml of apple cider vinegar with a high carbohydrate meal (white bagel with orange juice), reduced the spike in blood sugar after the meal versus the group who did not consume the vinegar with the meal. Before we can say that apple cider vinegar helps with blood sugar control, further and larger studies in different groups of people are required.
One small pilot study (12 participants) published by the American Diabetes Association identified better blood sugar control in those taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed. They didn’t look into the damaging effects this could have on your teeth though.
Finally, Michael Mosley and Aston University carried out a small study and showed that drinking dilute apple cider vinegar appeared to bring blood sugar levels down.
Final verdict: There is some evidence of benefit, but these studies are small, and large amounts of vinegar would need to be consumed on a daily basis to show benefit, which may have a detrimental effect on other things… like your teeth! There is no evidence that apple cider vinegar can reverse diabetes, and there is a whole body of research to support of other healthy things you can do to improve blood sugar control aside from sipping vinegar!
3) What about heartburn?
Some people report that apple cider vinegar helps with their heartburn, which, if they have low stomach acid, may be of benefit. However, if you are someone who suffers from high acidity in your stomach, this may make your symptoms worse. Foods that affect heartburn is often a matter of trial an error and is very individual. One small study with 7 participants in America did find that cloudy apple cider vinegar helped with preventing heartburn in those who did not respond well to antacids, but more research is required in this area.
The verdict: It could make it worse, could make it better… we don’t know.
4) Will it help with arthritis and inflammation?
There appear to be just anecdotal reports of people claiming to feel better and having less pain from arthritis when drinking apple cider vinegar. Unfortunately, there are not currently any scientific reports supporting this claim. One very small study (30 participants) did measure C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) before and after apple cider vinegar consumption and did not find remarkable results.
The verdict: I have a hard time giving recommendations based on purely anecdotal evidence. If you think it works for you, I think that’s just great.
Are there any risks?
- If you suffer from gastroparesis, (slow emptying of the stomach), this may make your symptoms worse.
- If you are diabetic, especially on medications that lower your blood sugar, there is a risk of potential low blood sugars. Speak with your healthcare professional for more information on this.
- Apple cider vinegar can affect potassium levels in the body, and also interact with drugs such as diuretics, or other water pills. Check with your pharmacist or doctor for more information.
- As apple cider vinegar is an acid, it can damage the enamel in your teeth. Avoid taking it neat, or sipping it throughout the day.
- We don’t know much about the long-term effects of taking apple cider vinegar.
Although some studies do suggest promising effects, there are generally few, they are small and often conducted in rats. If we could prove all of the amazing benefits that unqualified individuals splash around the internet, doctors would be handing this out to nearly every patient who walked through their door!
If you do wish to include apple cider vinegar in your diet, I would recommend either including it in salad dressings with olive oil, marinades, sauces or baked goods and not drinking it by the glass!