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Apple cider vinegar has been promoted as a health tonic for years. You may have even heard that taking a shot of it daily will improve your health and help you lose belly fat. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, its risks, and how to consume it safely.
What is apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is created from apples through a two-step fermentation process.
First, cut or crushed apples are combined with yeast. The yeast converts the sugar in the apples into alcohol. Next, bacteria are added, which ferments the alcohol and produces what’s called acetic acid.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because you likely have some in your pantry. Acetic acid is the active component in both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. White vinegar contains 5–10% acetic acid while ACV has about 5–6%. ACV also contains water, other acids, and minerals.
Apple cider vinegar typically takes about one month to make, although the process can be sped up.
Does apple cider vinegar help with weight loss?
One of the major health claims of ACV is it helps with weight loss. There is a chance it could help (and some people claimed it has), but most of the evidence is anecdotal or from animal studies.
Some studies suggest ACV may promote weight loss by (Frost, 2014; Konda, 2009; Yamashita, 2007):
- Increasing metabolism
- Reducing body fat storage
- Increasing how much fat you burn
- Suppressing appetite
- Increasing satiety or fullness
But again, these studies are only in animals, so we don’t know if ACV would have the same effects in humans.
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Other potential health benefits of ACV
While we don’t know if ACV will help you shed pounds, it may offer other benefits including:
- Lowers blood sugar: A small 2010 study found that consuming two teaspoons of vinegar with meals containing complex carbs helped prevent blood sugar spikes (Johnston, 2010). Another study found that vinegar helps improve insulin sensitivity and lowers insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes (Johnston, 2004).
- Improves PCOS symptoms: A very small study of seven people found drinking an ACV beverage each day improved ovulation, fasting glucose, and hormone balance in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) (Wu, 2013).
- Improves lipid levels: Animal research suggests acetic acid helps lower triglyceride and total cholesterol levels (Kondo, 2009; Hadi, 2021).
- Lowers blood pressure: An animal study found vinegar changed gene expression and lowered blood pressure in rats with high blood pressure (Na, 2016).
- Kills harmful bacteria and viruses: Research suggests vinegar has antibacterial and antiviral properties. The acids in vinegar may be able to prevent food-borne illnesses caused by bacteria like E. coli (Entani, 1998).
How to take apple cider vinegar
When consuming a product that’s very acidic like vinegar, it’s important that you don’t drink it straight. You may have heard suggestions to take a shot of ACV straight, but you need to dilute it first to reduce the risk of nausea or burning your throat.
Here are some safe ways you can incorporate ACV into your diet:
- Add a tablespoon to a glass of water
- Combine it with olive oil to create a salad dressing
- Use it to pickle vegetables
- Mix lemon and ACV in a hot cup of tea
- Add it to egg or tuna salad
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Apple cider vinegar tablets are also available as a dietary supplement. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements for safety or effectiveness. Talk with a healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplements.
Potential risks and side effects of apple cider vinegar
Here are some of the risks associated with taking too much ACV:
- Damage tooth enamel. The high acidity of vinegar could damage teeth if not properly diluted or too much is consumed.
- Throat or esophagus burns. Injuries like esophageal burns have been reported after taking too much ACV (Hall, 2005)
- Lower blood sugar levels. Some research suggests ACV lowers blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity. This means it could lead to dangerous drops in blood sugar if taken alongside medications that lower glucose levels.
- Nausea and digestive problems. Any dietary supplements or foods can aggravate the digestive system. Some people have reported nausea and discomfort from taking apple cider vinegar.
- Delayed stomach emptying. Research suggests vinegar may slow digestion by keeping food in your stomach for longer (Hlebowicz, 2007). While this may help with weight loss, it could increase symptoms for people with gastroparesis or acid reflux.
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Proven weight loss methods to try instead
More research is needed before the benefits and risks of apple cider vinegar become clear. The current scientific evidence is only in small studies or animal research.
You can add a safe amount of ACV to your diet if you’d like, but consider trying one of these other proven weight loss methods if that’s your goal.
- Mindful eating helps bring awareness to how much you’re eating and prevents mindless snacking.
- Track food and exercise habits to keep track of how much you’re eating and how many calories you’re burning.
- Eat more fiber to support healthy digestion, increase feelings of fullness, and support a healthy weight.
- Eat a balanced diet full of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to fuel your body with all the nutrients it needs.
- Be mindful of overeating and emotional eating to prevent consuming too many calories.
- Get enough sleep to help your body recover and stay healthy.
- Manage stress with meditation, walking outdoors, or other coping strategies.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Meet with health professionals like doctors, dietitians, or nutritionists, for support and advice.
- Entani, E., Asai, M., Tsujihata, S., Tsukamoto, Y., & Ohta, M. (1998). Antibacterial action of vinegar against food-borne pathogenic bacteria including Escherichia coli O157:H7. Journal of Food Protection, 61(8), 953–959. doi:10.4315/0362-028x-61.8.953. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9713753/
- Frost, G., Sleeth, M. L., Sahuri-Arisoylu, M., Lizarbe, B., Cerdan, S., Brody, L., et al. (2014). The short-chain fatty acid acetate reduces appetite via a central homeostatic mechanism. Nature Communications, 5, 3611. doi:10.1038/ncomms4611. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24781306/
- Hadi, A., Pourmasoumi, M., Najafgholizadeh, A., Clark, C., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2021). The effect of apple cider vinegar on lipid profiles and glycemic parameters: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 21(1), 179. doi:10.1186/s12906-021-03351-w. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8243436/
- Hall, K. D. & Kahan, S. (2018). Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity. The Medical Clinics of North America, 102(1), 183–197. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764193/
- Hlebowicz, J., Darwiche, G., Björgell, O., & Almér, L. O. (2007). Effect of apple cider vinegar on delayed gastric emptying in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study. BMC Gastroenterology, 7, 46. doi:10.1186/1471-230X-7-46. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2245945/
- Johnston, C. S., Kim, C. M., & Buller, A. J. (2004). Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 27(1), 281–282. doi:10.2337/diacare.27.1.281. Retrieved from https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/27/1/281/26582/Vinegar-Improves-Insulin-Sensitivity-to-a-High
- Johnston, C. S., Steplewska, I., Long, C. A., Harris, L. N., & Ryals, R. H. (2010). Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, 56(1), 74–79. doi:10.1159/000272133. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20068289/
- Kondo, T., Kishi, M., Fushimi, T., Ugajin, S., & Kaga, T. (2009). Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 73(8), 1837–1843. doi:10.1271/bbb.90231. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19661687/
- Na, L., Chu, X., Jiang, S., Li, C., Li, G., He, Y., et al. (2016). Vinegar decreases blood pressure by down-regulating AT1R expression via the AMPK/PGC-1α/PPARγ pathway in spontaneously hypertensive rats. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(3), 1245–1253. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-0937-7. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26476634/
- Yamashita, H. (2016). Biological function of acetic acid-improvement in obesity and glucose tolerance by acetic acid in type 2 diabetic rats. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 56(1), S171–S175. doi:10.1080/10408398.2015.1045966. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26176799/
- Wu, D., Kimura, F., Takashima, A., Shimizu, Y., Takebayashi, A., Kita, N., et al. (2013). Intake of vinegar beverage is associated with restoration of ovulatory function in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, 230(1), 17–23. doi:10.1620/tjem.230.17. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23666047/
Dr. Steve Silvestro is a board-certified pediatrician and Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.