7 Apple Cider Vinegar Facts To Know Before You Drink It
Losing weight the healthy way of eating and the calorie- and fat-burning workouts into your regular routine. It's incredible to see gains after putting in all that effort, but when you're not taking drastic measures to lose weight, it's easy to get impatient waiting for results. Enter supplements like apple cider vinegar, which some people turn to because of its reputation as a weight-loss aide, "detoxifier," and general health-booster.
Consuming apple cider vinegar usually involves mixing anywhere between a teaspoon and two tablespoons with eight ounces of water in the morning before getting the day started. But does it really mean to promote weight loss, or to follow through on any of the other popular rumors swirling around it? Here, experts get to the bottom of the apple cider vinegar and health debate.
1. It doesn't actually cause weight loss.
"There are many mostly unfounded claims about apple cider vinegar," Scott Kahan, M.D., M.P.H., Director of National Center for Weight and Wellness, tells SELF. As a doctor specializing in obesity management as well as a researcher in obesity treatments, a lot of patients ask Kahan how apple cider vinegar may affect their weight. Simply put, there's no rigorous science to back up the claim that apple cider vinegar kicks off a metabolic process that results in weight loss.
"Like with most supplements, people make a lot of claims based on absent or extremely poor data," says Kahan. "Virtually no [scientific literature] comes up for this, and what does is usually tiny, not well-done studies in obscure journals." Because of that, he says they're "basically meaningless" when it comes to supporting claims of apple cider vinegar's weight-loss benefits.
Another expert agrees. "Apple cider vinegar doesn’t have any physiological properties that speed up your metabolism or melt fat," Abby Langer, R.D., tells SELF. That doesn't mean it doesn't potentially have some small health benefits, though.
2. But it can be a probiotic.
Apple cider vinegar is derived from fermented apple juice. Like many other fermented foods, it can contain probiotics, or bacteria that help keep your gut and digestive system healthy. "If you get raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, it contains the 'mother,'" says Langer, referring to cobwebby-strands that cloud the liquid a bit. "That consists of enzymes, proteins, and probiotics which leach into the liquid," she explains.
Since pasteurization removes the mother, any potential probiotic benefit is lost unless you get the raw stuff. Even though it's pretty cool that the drink could have probiotic properties, if you're keeping your apple cider vinegar intake within the healthy range, you're still only consuming less than a couple of tablespoons a day, so not enough to see any major health changes.
3. Apple cider vinegar isn't a natural way to "detox."
"I've heard a lot about how apple cider vinegar 'detoxifies' you," says Langer, who explains that it's simply not true. That's because your body does a clutch job of detoxing all on its own—that's precisely what your liver, kidneys, and intestines are for. They work together to eliminate toxins and waste from your body in the form of urine and feces, while also helping your body absorb the beneficial nutrients from whatever you eat. "Despite what you may read, there's nothing magical about apple cider vinegar," says Langer.
4. It's also not the best appetite suppressant.
Some people drink apple cider vinegar hoping that it will ward off hunger, thus leading to weight loss because of reduced calorie intake. It's theoretically possible, but it's likely just a side effect of gastritis, or an inflammation of the stomach lining. "If your stomach is empty and you're introducing an acid, it's going to cause irritation, which can make you feel full and not want to eat," says Langer.
Instead, for a full feeling that doesn't potentially come with unwelcome side effects, Langer recommends loading up on a protein-packed breakfast. "Not only does it help with satiety, but a high-protein breakfast will deliver nutrients well beyond what a glass of water with apple cider vinegar could," she says. She recommends whipping up a breakfast with ingredients like eggs, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt to avoid hunger pangs throughout the day.
5. In some people, it might lower blood sugar by slowing the body's absorption of carbohydrates.
One 2013 study in Journal of Functional Foods suggests as much, noting that participants who ingested apple cider vinegar each day for 12 weeks had lower blood sugar. The issue is that the study was only conducted on 14 people, and they were all already predisposed to type 2 diabetes.
"Because studies are typically done on certain subsets of people, you can usually only make very specific conclusions based on the population that's actually studied," says Kahan. In other words, studies are a great way to learn about various subpopulations, but unless the research is large-scale and designed to apply to many groups, it doesn't automatically tell you about the general population.
That's not to say apple cider vinegar can't help lower blood glucose levels, at least in the group studied. "It may have some effect in terms of decreasing the increase in blood sugar that happens after eating a carbohydrate in people who are prone to high blood sugar," says Kahan, although the mechanism behind this isn't totally clear. "Vinegar is an acid that changes the pH of food, which can affect how quickly something is metabolized and absorbed," he says. "It could also affect the enzymes that are responsible for metabolizing and absorbing the nutrients of different foods."
6. If you drink too much, it could be dangerous.
Even though the vast health claims are dubious, that doesn't automatically mean you can't drink apple cider vinegar. "Lack of scientific evidence doesn't mean that it's dangerous or won't make you feel healthier," says Langer. If you're going to incorporate it into your diet, it's all about how you do it.
Langer recommendations never going over two tablespoons a day, and Kahan agrees that overdoing it could have negative health effects. Beyond exacerbating the stomach irritation issue, too much acidity can not be at all tooth enamel and even harm your esophagus, he says. Anything with apple cider vinegar mixed in so that the stomach irritation is less likely.
"Vinegar is a strong acid," he says. "Like with a lot of other 'magic' pills, potions, and foods, you want to be careful about having too much."
7. Eating your apple cider vinegar could be better than drinking it.
While drinking it on its own isn't necessarily dangerous when done in moderation, drizzling a homemade apple cider vinegar dressing over a salad may be the way to go, says Kahan. Not only will you be using vegetables as a vehicle for the vinegar, you'll be swapping in a healthy substitute for dressing, which is often secretly loaded with calories, fat, sugar, and salt. "In that way, it can be helpful and indirectly lead to weight loss by displacing other unhealthier foods," says Kahan.
Most of all, if you're going to use apple cider vinegar, remember there's no such thing as a quick-fix for weight loss that actually lasts. "Don’t let any unfounded claims get in the way of a long-term healthy lifestyle," says Kahan. "If you want a little apple cider vinegar to be part of it, that’s OK, as long it’s reasonable."
You might also like: A Total-Body At-Home Workout For Weight Loss