The health benefits of apple cider vinegar, and the truth behind the myths

Read Time:   |  25th January 2022

ACV is widely promoted as a potent wellness potion with numerous health benefits, from improving your skin to curing cancer. But are any of these claims true? What does the science tell us about the supposed health benefits of apple cider vinegar?

What is apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is created by fermenting the liquid from crushed apples through the addition of bacteria and yeast. The resulting liquid is a strong, sour-tasting solution with high levels of acetic acid.

ACV has been used worldwide for thousands of years to flavour and preserve foods, in the treatment of wounds and illnesses. It has been been used as an effective cleaning agent thanks to its acidic properties.

ACV is widely promoted as a potent wellness potion with numerous health benefits, from improving your skin to curing cancer. But are any of these claims true? What does the science tell us about the supposed health benefits of apple cider vinegar?

The health benefits of apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can lower your blood sugar levels after a meal

Studies have shown that ACV, or any vinegar for that matter, can reduce glucose and insulin levels in your blood after a meal1. The acetic acid found in vinegar appears to block the absorption of some of the starch from foods like bread and pasta in our meals.

To achieve this effect, it is recommended to take 1-2 tbsp of diluted ACV just before your meal. Make sure it is diluted as pure ACV is not good news for the lining of your oesophagus and will leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Please note that if you have diabetes, using vinegar to reduce post-meal blood sugar levels is not the answer. Your overall diet and lifestyle is key, along with advice from your registered health professional which may include medication.

Apple cider vinegar may support weight control

One small study used doses of ACV as part of a 12-week weight loss plan. All participants lost weight, with the ACV group losing more. As part of this plan, they also restricted calorie intake, so the specific impact of ACV alone remains unclear2.

ACV has also been claimed to suppress your appetite, leading to weight loss. However, this may simply be a result of the bad taste leading to feelings of nausea.

We are all looking for that quick-fix solution for effortless weight loss, so the idea that adding a simple liquid to your diet to ‘boost metabolism’ and ‘burn fat’ is a popular one.

Unfortunately, we just haven’t got good quality science to prove that adding ACV to your diet will result in significant weight or body fat loss.

Taking a small quantity of ACV in your diet may have a small positive impact on your weight, but don’t expect miraculous results.

Your overall diet and lifestyle remains the most effective way to manage your weight long-term.

Apple cider vinegar adds a delicious flavour to meals

The acidity of ACV provides a zing that can be utilised to bring out the flavour of foods. It’s a great one to use on salads, in marinades and to top your smashed avocado on toast along with a little salt and pepper.

Due to its flavour enhancing properties, ACV can help you to enjoy nutritious foods with many proven health benefits such as vegetables and wholegrains.

It is a particularly good choice if you have coeliac disease and therefore avoid barley malt vinegar.

The truth behind the Apple cider vinegar myths

Apple cider vinegar won’t cure cancer

There have been claims that drinking ACV will promote the death of cancer cells. Whilst this has been seen in a laboratory environment, with acetic acid killing cancer cells in a test tube, this has not yet been studied in humans where there are much more complex biological mechanisms going on3.

Although the results of lab experiments have been promising, there remains no evidence that adding ACV to your diet will have any impact on cancer.

Apple cider vinegar won’t improve your digestion

The collection of bacteria and yeast that is present in some ACVs is known as the ‘mother’. It has been claimed, due to the presence of bacteria, that this has a beneficial probiotic effect in our gut resulting in improved digestion and reduced bloating.

In this case however, no probiotic or anti-bloating benefits have been proven for ACV. The best way to support your digestion is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fibre, stay well-hydrated, reduce stress and move your body regularly.

The best way to support your digestion is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fibre, stay well-hydrated, reduce stress and move your body regularly.

The best way to support your digestion is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fibre, stay well-hydrated, reduce stress and move your body regularly.

Apple cider vinegar alone will not improve your skin

Again, despite the claims, we don’t have any evidence that taking ACV will impact on the health or appearance of your skin.

Consuming more whole plant foods and staying hydrated contributes to skin health, along with limiting alcohol and reducing sun damage.

These lifestyle changes are your best bet when it comes to taking care of your skin.

Apple cider vinegar erodes your teeth

Remember that ACV is an acid, so consuming it regularly could be detrimental to your tooth enamel. If you decide to consume ACV separately to meals, make sure to dilute it well, drink with a straw, and rinse your mouth out afterwards.

How to take apple cider vinegar

One of the best ways to enjoy ACV is to enhance the flavour of your meals, for example in a salad dressing or whizzed into a sauce.

If you want to include it as an extra supplement, there should be no harm in doing so. But my advice is to take 1-2 tbsp diluted into water or other liquid to protect your oesophagus and tooth enamel.

Apple cider vinegar is a delicious vinegar to add flavour to your cooking and promote the consumption of healthy foods. In addition, there may be a small benefit to post-meal blood sugar levels, and potentially weight control.

But as we have seen, there remains little high-quality evidence to support the consumption of ACV for many of the claims that are widely promoted4.

More robust and larger-scale studies are needed to make any further conclusions on the benefits on ACV. I use ACV in my diet to add an interesting flavour to my foods, but that’s as far as it goes.

Aim to ensure a varied and balanced diet, good hydration, and positive lifestyle habits, and you will be unlikely to need additional vinegar shots or expensive vinegar pills to achieve optimal health.

When going vegan, many people worry that they will become deficient in iron.

Here are 10 plant-based foods that are rich in iron

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28292654/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464618300483
  3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jgh.12775
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32170375/

Written by

Rosie Martin

Rosie Martin

Rosie is a plant-based registered dietitian working in the NHS as Employee Health & Wellness Dietitian for NHS staff. As a former zoologist working in animal welfare, Rosie turned to a vegan diet in 2014. Having studied and experienced the physical and psychological benefits of a diet based on whole plant food, Rosie now works to support others embrace a plant-based diet for human, planetary and animal health through her business, Rosemary Nutrition & Dietetics. Rosie is also a board member of Plant Based Health Professionals UK.

www.rosemarynutrition.co.uk/#MeetRosemary

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