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.