Apple cider vinegar has been used medicinally for over 2000 years to aid digestion, fight infections and boost weight loss. Apple cider vinegar health benefits may also include an ability to lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure and improve blood glucose control, although human research is limited.
Apple cider vinegar benefits
Apple cider vinegar is made by crushing apples and their skins to produce a cloudy apple juice which is fermented with yeasts to produce cider. A second bacterial fermentation then converts the alcohol to acetic acid to produce apple cider vinegar.
Both the cider and the cider vinegar retain many of the beneficial bioflavonoids present in the apples themselves. Apple cider vinegar typically provides around 110mg antioxidant polyphenols per 100ml, including catechins (similar to those found in green tea), quercetin and resveratrol (like those found in red wine). Cider made with red-skinned apples provides the greatest level of polyphenols.
Apple cider vinegar diet
Apple cider vinegar is a traditional folk remedy to aid weight loss. Modern research suggests it may help to suppress appetite and help you feel fuller by delaying stomach emptying.
A Japanese study investigated apple cider vinegar weight loss effects in 155 overweight yet healthy people, aged 25 – 60 years, who were not on any medication. Every day, they were asked to drink 500ml (250ml after breakfast and 250 ml after supper) of either a high dose apple cider vinegar (300mg acetic acid/100ml), a low dose apple cider vinegar (150mg acetic acid per 100ml) or a placebo containing lactic acid to mimic the taste of vinegar. To make the vinegar easier to drink, it was sweetened with a no-calorie artificial sweetener (eg Stevia).
During the 12 week study, those taking part did not make any changes to their usual diet or exercise level (calorie intake, and number of steps walked per day remained the same) – the only change was the addition of the 500ml vinegar per day. After 12 weeks, those taking the high dose apple cider vinegar had lost 1.9kg, those taking the low-dose apple cider vinegar lost 1.2kg in weight, while those taking the placebo vinegar gained 0.3kg in weight.
While this is not a massive weight loss, considering it happened without making any other changes to food intake or exercise levels, it makes the apple cider vinegar diet an interesting approach. Other studies have suggested that even a daily intake of 15ml apple cider vinegar may have a clinically significant effect.
How to follow the apple cider vinegar diet
To follow an apple cider vinegar diet, simply take your chosen an amount of apple cider vinegar, from 15 ml to 60ml or more) with before a meal, two or three times a day. Dilute the apple cider vinegar in water and sweeten it with Stevia to make it more palatable. The study above used Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Drink sweetened with stevia.
Apple cider vinegar drinks which say ‘With the mother’ on the label mean that the vinegar is unfiltered, and contains strands of protein, enzymes and probiotic bacteria that contribute some of the health benefits but give the drink a cloudy appearance.
NB Apple cider vinegar is acidic and can erode teeth – if using it regularly, it’s a good idea to the apple cider vinegar through a straw or to dilute the cider vinegar with water before drinking.
Rinsing your mouth with water after taking apple cider vinegar also helps to protect against acid erosion of tooth enamel.
How the apple cider vinegar diet works
Apple cider vinegar contains apple polyphenols plus acetic acid, both of which stimulate metabolism to boost fat burning. Acetic acid (acetate) inhibits the formation of fat through effects on gene expression and the production of enzymes in fat cells.
Acetic acid also reduces the production of triglyceride fat in the liver which reduces the amount sent out to body fat stores
Another way in which the apple cider vinegar diet works is by suppressing appetite.
Volunteers who took 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before a carbohydrate-rich meal (a bagel and juice), felt twice as full after eating, and their level of satiety more than doubled so they ate less food for the remainder of the day than those who did not have the vinegar.
As a result, they ate between 200 and 275 kcals less per day – enough to result in a weight loss of over 2lb (just under 1kg) if repeated every day for one month.
A similar study found that taking apple cider vinegar with a portion of white bread (supplying 50g carbohydrate) suppressed appetite for up to 2 hours afterwards, with higher doses having the greatest effect.
Apple cider vinegar and digestion
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic, lactic, malic and citric acids which aid digestion. One in two people aged 60 and over have reduced production of stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) which reduces absorption of many vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc. This accelerates the age-related decline of mitochondrial function to slow fat burning, and is believed to contribute to weight gain and low energy levels in later life.
Consuming apple cider vinegar improves absorption of key nutrients that require an acidic environment in which to dissolve. Apple cider vinegar supplements are also available if you prefer to take in it capsule form to aid digestion.
Apple cider vinegar and diabetes
Apple cider vinegar slows the breakdown of complex sugars further down in the gut, to regulate the absorption of glucose. This effect, similar to the anti-diabetes drug, acarbose, reduces the blood glucose up-swings that are linked with cell damage and premature ageing.
When added in a dressing, apple cider vinegar reduces the glycaemic index (GI) of many foods, such as potatoes. Consuming two teaspoons of cider vinegar with a carbohydrate-rich evening meal reduces the expected rise in blood sugar after breakfast the next morning by as much as 20%. This effect resembles that of metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. When vinegar is added to rice it decreases its GI value by 20% to 30%.
When 14 people with type 2 diabetes were asked to take 8 fluid ounces (236ml) of apple cider vinegar sweetened with stevia (Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Drink Sweet Stevia) twice a day, with meals, for 12 weeks, they had significantly greater improvements in their fasting blood glucose levels than a control group.
Apple cider vinegar and cholesterol
Taking apple cider vinegar daily can lower cholesterol levels by 34%, bad LDL-cholesterol by 59% and increase good HDL cholesterol by 39% within a month. Triglyceride levels also reduced by 51%. Most of this research has been in mice and rats, but a study from Aston University found that people who took 30ml (two tablespoons) apple cider vinegar diluted in 200ml water, twice a day, every day, before a meal for 2 months, had an average reduction of 13% in total cholesterol, while in those taking malt vinegar or placebo cholesterol levels did not change.
Apple cider vinegar and blood pressure
Preliminary research suggests that apple cider vinegar may lower blood pressure through effects on renin, an enzyme involved in blood pressure control. Again, the research is in rats, but the effect was a dramatic 20mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure after taking a small amount of apple cider vinegar every day for 6 weeks. Sadly, no-one has funded any studies in humans.
Apple cider vinegar and an alkaline diet
Following an alkali-producing diet is increasingly believed to protect against age-related diseases linked with inflammation, such as osteoarthritis, heart attack, diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia and even cancer.
Although apple cider vinegar itself is acidic, it is processed in the body to have an alkaline effect. This may seem illogical, but as with lemons and limes, the types of fruit acid present are classed as ‘weak’ as they do not separate out into their ions and release acid-forming protons (H+) to any great extent. Instead, they are readily neutralised by the potassium present in fruits, and their juice, to form salts such as potassium citrate and potassium acetate. During metabolism, these salts react with sodium, water and carbon dioxide in the body to form bicarbonate, which is alkaline. As a result, apple cider vinegar has an alkalising effect on the body.
NB Adding sugar to fruit juices reduces the buffering effect of potassium, however, so sugar-sweetened juices and vinegar become acid-forming.
How to add apple cider vinegar to your diet
Look for organic, unfiltered, unprocessed apple cider vinegar, which is cloudy rather than crystal clear for the greatest level of polyphenols and other benefits – often labelled as with the mother.
Traditionally, apple cider vinegar is taken at a dose of 10 ml (2 teaspoons) to 30 mls (2 tablespoons) a day mixed in a cup of water or juice, before a meal, to aid digestion and weight loss.
You can also add apple cider vinegar to salad dressings, fish and meat marinades, sauces, soups, juices, smoothies and cooked vegetables. It’s great for pickling vegetables such as baby cucumbers, too.
Apple cider vinegar safety
There is a case report of a 28 year old woman who ‘overused’ apple cider vinegar who was admitted to hospital with a low blood pressure, a low potassium level, high sodium level and osteoporosis. She had consumed 250ml vinegar, diluted in water, every day for 6 years. Don’t over use apple cider vinegar long-term. It’s probably advisable not to use apple cider vinegar if you are taking diuretics that deplete potassium levels. If in doubt, check with your doctor or a pharmacist.
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