Is Apple Cider Vinegar Really a Magic Elixir?

Jessica Migala
by Jessica Migala
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Is Apple Cider Vinegar Really a Magic Elixir?

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a fermented juice made from crushed apples. Proponents of the trendy beverage claim it can help with weight loss, regulating blood sugar and more. While many people like to imbibe in a spoonful daily, others mix it with water and stevia for a less-tart taste and to save the enamel on their teeth.

Before jumping on the bandwagon, here is more information on several of the common health claims about apple cider vinegar:

Verdict: There’s some anecdotal evidence ACV aids digestion, but more research is needed. “I use it to help stimulate the production of stomach acid and enzymes, which helps you digest food better,” says Dr. Susan Blum, MPH, assistant clinical professor in the department of preventive medicine at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and founder and director of the Blum Center for Health. “I’ve seen it reduce symptoms like burping and acid reflux in my practice, but the scientific evidence to back using it in this way is still to come.”

Verdict: Tread with caution here. In a 2018 randomized clinical trial in the Journal of Functional Foods, dieters who cut calories and drank 1 ounce of ACV daily lost more body weight and belly fat compared to a control group of dieters who only cut calories over a 12-week span. They also saw their blood lipid levels improve, including a decrease in total cholesterol and a bump in “good” HDL. The researchers suggest taking ACV may help turn down your appetite and hunger cues. However, while the results may be exciting and positive, it’s important to keep in mind this study was small (39 people) and only done in the short-term; studies longer in duration are needed to really see how ACV plays out.

Similarly, Harvard research found “the scientific evidence that vinegar consumption (whether of the apple cider variety or not) is a reliable, long-term means of losing excess weight is not compelling.”

Verdict: “ACV appears to have an effect on slowing the absorption of the food you eat, and acetic acid also suppresses glucose activity,” says Blum. A 2018 review of clinical trials found that 8–12 weeks of taking vinegar (including ACV) helped reduce A1c levels (a measure of your average blood sugar over three months). However, the researchers say that because the evidence seems promising, the next step is to conduct large trials to see if ACV really should be a treatment to control blood sugar. In other words, more research is needed.

Verdict: Because ACV is fermented, it is a source of gut-friendly probiotics. “Fermented foods enhance the gut microbiome, which plays a role in the functioning of your immune system,” says Blum. Aiming to get more fermented foods in your diet (kimchi, kefir and ACV) can be part of an well-rounded plan to promote gut health.

THE BOTTOM LINE

While ACV is considered safe for use, especially as a cooking vinegar or part of a vinaigrette recipe, it’s probably not the miracle elixir of our dreams.

About the Author

Jessica Migala
Jessica Migala

Jessica Migala is a health and fitness freelancer based in the Chicago suburbs. She spends her days writing with her beagle mix by her side and her free time with her two young sons. Jessica also writes for O, The Oprah magazine, Woman’s Day, Real Simple and others. Find her at jessicamigala.com.

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23 responses to “Is Apple Cider Vinegar Really a Magic Elixir?”

  1. cindy stock says:

    curious why if all “studies” indicate positive results, even if small.. it seems that ACV is good for us, and good for all of the issues you went over in the article, so why not give it a more positive review? It seems to me that the lack luster review seems to like most doctors and so called experts that are too afraid of saying something works because of fear of the “powers that be” that don’t like simple cheap solutions to problems. In My Own Personal Opinion it’s that the pharmacutical companies want us to spend tons of money. One simple thing I know works is when I have any kind of heartburn, especially at night.. I just take a teaspoon of ACV in some water with a bit of lemon juice and in just a few minutes I feel fine and can get to sleep. In the past I’d be up taking multiple heartburn pills and so called cures that eventually worked after sitting up for an hour.

  2. Ash says:

    The title and conclusion of this article don’t seem to match the content. It appears there is good preliminary evidence to suggest ACV may help with blood sugar regulation and weight loss (enough to warrant further testing), as well as anecdotal evidence of decreasing digestive upset. I’m confused by the author’s interpretation of the presented information. The most credible critique at this point should simply be that early evidence is promising, with more studies to be completed in the future in order to fully understand the extent of benefits and related mechanisms.

  3. k_j_1231 says:

    Wow – not one negative, many potential positives and Ms. Migala gives ACV the proverbial thumbs down. After reading the article I’m on my way to Whole Foods to get me some more Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar!

  4. Jose says:

    ACV helps on the first day incase anyone who is thinking about using it. Take it as soon as you wake up and eat something small SLOWLY and it’ll get the taste right out your mouth. This helps with feeling bloated and does reduce your urges to snack, primary unhealthy food and you really can feel the difference after just 5 days (Mon-Fri) take the weekends off so you can have mental recovery so come monday you’re drinking it again. Doing this method i can tell you that you will stick to it for a much longer time because you just have to drink it 5 days a week and have a piece of mind going into the weekend.

  5. mikeusry says:

    Good article but I feel that a major point was missed regarding Mother of Vinegar. Unfiltered and unpasteurized contains powerful acetobacter. Acetobacter is proven to digest sugars into soluble dietary fibers. This is the important part in the digestion, gut health and probiotic statements above. There has been little research on the subject because . . . vinegar companies have little motivation to pay over-hyped university professors.

  6. Gene says:

    I tried ACV on my scalp for a couple of weeks based on claims it could help treat folliculits and other skin conditions. No positive results noted, only a smelly scalp.

  7. usa anon says:

    there’s a wrench for every nut

  8. Robert Taylor says:

    These studies they have done using a few people here and there don’t mean anything to those who have used This stuff and received nothing but positive results regarding their health.
    I recommended it to a friend of mine who has high blood pressure and has been on medication for that for many years. In just a few weeks, his blood pressure went down. His doctor eventually took him off his medication. During routine check-ups, his blood pressure has remained at a normal level.

  9. Mediocrates the Great says:

    I tried apple cider vinegar for eczema and a chronic stomach issue after first reading about it a couple of years ago and it had ZERO effect. These conditions that magical-thinking people, books, and online articles were breathlessly telling me it was great for raged on unabated. They didn’t even slightly improve.

    People may be having a placebo effect when they use ACV but I can tell you that it did absolutely nothing for me. I call “nonsense” on claims that it’s anything other than a cooking ingredient.

    And, yes, I bought the kind with “the mother” from a quite high-end store. Made no difference, had no effect. You might as well rub crystals on yourself and repeat magic words from a Disney movie. It’ll accomplish just as much.

    • Choado Baggins says:

      Then you’re just as bad as the people on the other side of the pendulum. Because it did nothing for your one particular problem it won’t help anyone with anything? I don’t believe that anything is a magical cure-all, and I don’t even use ACV, but I wouldn’t call aspirin useless when it didn’t cure my case of athletes feet.

      • ScottH222 says:

        Aspirin isn’t a purported as a cure for athlete’s feet, so your analogy does’t hold.

        • Madashell says:

          and acv doesnt cure eczema or chrones disease, so the comment still stands. He couldnt even get a placebo effect cos deep down he didnt think it would work. whereas others deep down hoped it would. Not everything works for everybody. I believe that ACV is a magical elixir and good for pain, tension and toxins. Ive seen enough to believe.

          • ScottH222 says:

            But at least ACV is purported to solve the problems you mention. No one says that aspirin would cure athlete’s foot. That is why his point makes no sense.

  10. Cris says:

    Well, the devil is in the details & if you know anything about scientific research, significance testing is still king though not always very meaningful. The small (N=39) doesn’t mention how much. If you check out the other Harvard study, it’s about a pound a month; not very much in real terms. Likewise the
    A1c levels from that study were less than 1% (1/3%) though it was significant to controls.

    The first question to ask is ‘how much’ of a difference really happened. Then decide if that’s enough for you. Significance testing just tells you whether the difference was better than chance, not ultimately how good it is.

  11. RainbowFartsandUnicorns says:

    I have been starting the day, every day, with ACV mixed with water (3 tablespoons, + a liquid glucosamine). I’ve been doing this for 10 years. As someone that suffered from chronic digestive irregularities and stomach issues prior to this, I can say that this simple ritual has cured my issues. Sidenote- I have also cured plantar’s warts and ringworm with it. Personally, I think it is a pretty damn magical elixir.

  12. mickrussom says:

    I used ACV to make a version of fake “kombucha” lemon juide, ACV, and sparkling water. Kombuchas have a ton of carbs/sugars (most of them in the store) and are not good on a diet.

    I dont see a downside to diluted ACV, why does this article make it sound like caution should be used?

  13. pat says:

    To me, it is a magical elixir. I suffer from chronic muscle cramps that can show up anywhere. They are very painful and interrupt sleep. when I take ACV with water, the problem goes away completely. When I stop taking it, the problem comes back. Period. You can call that a placebo effect, but since I didn’t expect it to work, it seems unlikely. I share this story in Hope’s that others can enjoy the life-changing effect that I have, statistically significant or not.

  14. Martin Molina says:

    Works for me. Felt sick as dog this morning, nausea, migraines, the works. Took some apple cider vinegar and felt brand new within an hour! I know it works! From personal experience.

  15. Ithabeleng Letsunyane says:

    THis made me go make a tea with acv!! 😀 I love it, helps with inflammation all round including asthma!…

  16. Brandy says:

    I agree with the previous comments. The writer conveyed several potential positives of ACV and then gave it overall a poor review. The writer seems to be confused about his/her own thoughts on the matter. Hmm?

  17. Guinea pig says:

    just tried a table spoon. No problem taking it straight. Look forward to seeing if reduces my burping. My wife will miss that!

    • zanniegsp says:

      Taking it once straight will likley not do any harm, but you probably should not do that on a regular basis. The acid in ACV is not good for the enamel on your teeth but more importantly it can do damage to the membranes in your esophagus. Recommended dilution is a tablespoon in an 8 oz glass of water. Adding a little Stevia and Cinnamon will make it taste better. I have noticed that it does have a positive effect on heartburn, not sure what it does for burping! Good luck!

  18. zanniegsp says:

    I don’t know about weight loss, though my ACV “elixir” does seem to decrease my appetite, but it absolutely does decrease my blood sugar levels. It especially helps for fasting glucose levels when I drink it before I go to bed – I notice a difference in my levels when I forget to drink it before I go to bed. Do NOT drink it straight – article said some people take it by the spoonful – NEVER a good idea. Drinking ACV straight is harmful not only to the enamel to your teeth, but also to the membranes in your esophagus – always dilute it before drinking it. For my ACV drink, I add 2 Tablespoons of raw unfiltered ACV to 16 ounces of water, about a teaspoon of Pyure (Stevia/erythritol blend), about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a Tablespoon of Chia seeds (shake well to hydrate the Chia seeds). It doesn’t look appetizing (because of the Chia seeds), but actually doesn’t taste too bad – adding the stevia and cinnamon makes it taste kind of like apple cider. The Chia seeds add fiber, protein and omega-3 fats and probably also helps with the appetite suppression. Braggs ACV seems to have a more mild taste, but other brands are fine too as long as they are raw and unfiltered. I drink a little before each meal and finish it off before I go to bed. It has done wonders for my glucose levels.

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