Food fads come and go, but one that seems to be reappearing lately is apple cider vinegar. In fact, while my brother was visiting a couple weekends ago he asked me about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar since he had started drinking it every morning mixed into a large glass of water. Although it never appealed to me, I’ve been seeing more people talk about taking up the same habit too. If you google the health benefits of apple cider vinegar you’ll come up with a long list of proposed benefits from weight loss to detoxing. Unfortunately, apple cider vinegar isn’t a miracle health food; getting healthier still means eating well and exercising. It’s also important to note that the active compound in apple cider vinegar, acetic acid, is also found in other vinegars too.
One of the most popular apple cider vinegar claims is that it aids in weight loss. So far, only one study in humans has looked at supplementing your diet with apple cider vinegar and weight loss. This study was done in Japan with 75 obese, but otherwise healthy, individuals. For 12 weeks, they drank a beverage with either 15 mL (1 tablespoon) or 30 mL (2 tablespoons) of apple cider added daily. After 12 weeks, both groups drinking the vinegar lost about 2 lbs but gained it back again when researchers followed up 4 weeks after the study had ended.
Conclusion: If you are looking to make significant progress towards long term weight loss, simply adding apple cider vinegar to your current diet will not get you results.
Blood Sugar Management
The one potential health benefit of apple cider vinegar that has been researched more than others is the effect it has on blood sugars. Most studies are animal studies, but there are a few human studies as well. Three small research studies have found that drinking 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with water before a high carbohydrate meal slightly improves post-meal glycemic response (ie. decreases the spike in your blood sugar after a meal). (1, 2, 3) This change in post-meal blood sugar was most dramatic in individuals already at increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Another small study with 11 individuals with type 2 diabetes found that drinking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed in a glass of water alongside 1 ounce of cheese improved their morning fasting blood sugars by an average of 4%.
To better understand why acetic acid in vinegar seems to have a positive effect on blood sugar control, researchers looked at how it interacts with intestinal cells. They found that acetic acid may minimally decrease the absorption of carbohydrates in the meal. However, more research is needed to better understand exactly how acetic acid influences blood sugars.
Conclusion: All of these studies are very small and short term with minimal impact on blood sugar control. Diet pattern changes are still the best way to control your blood sugars, especially if you have diabetes. Meet with a Registered Dietitian to come up with an individualized diet plan.
Many rat studies have found that supplementing their diet with vinegar improves cholesterol levels. However, the same effect has not yet been observed in people.
Conclusion: You can’t depend on apple cider vinegar to improve your cholesterol levels.
Your body (ie. your liver and kidneys) does a great job of filtering out any environmental toxins you may encounter on its own! There has yet to be any research to support that any specific food or cleanse will rid your body of “toxins”.
Conclusion: Spend your time focusing on eating a healthier diet with lots of non-starchy vegetables, protein, and whole grains and staying hydrated.
Is apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar) the key to health and longevity? Just like any fad food, I wouldn’t say that you’ll achieve optimal health just by incorporating vinegar into your diet. If you really want to achieve better blood sugar management, weight loss, or lower your cholesterol I suggest meeting with a Registered Dietitian to discuss diet changes to improve your health! If you plan to try adding more vinegar to your diet, make sure to never drink vinegar without first diluting it in water. Vinegar is a powerful acid and can cause damage to tooth enamel or burns. I would suggest adding vinegar to your diet as part of recipes like salad dressings so that is it more diluted. You’ll be doing yourself a much bigger favor by eating a nutrient-packed salad with a vinegar based dressing rather than drinking a glass of water with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the morning.
Looking for a few tasty recipes that can help you incorporate vinegar into your diet? Check out these!