Name a health problem. Any health problem. Chances are, if you poke around the Internet, you'll find article touting that apple cider vinegar cures it. Acne, cancer, colds, heart disease, heartburn, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, warts, sore throats-apple cider vinegar supposedly makes it all disappear.

I think of myself as an optimist, but when something you can buy for $ 2.50 at a grocery store is touted as a cure-all, I can not help but furrow my brow. So I decided to take a close look at the scientific evidence. What, I wondered, does it really matter about the healing power of this ubiquitous household product? My findings: Although there is some evidence to suggest that vinegar can regulate blood sugar after a meal, the other breathless claims are based more in fantasy than fact.

Let's start with skin-related stuff.

You may have heard that apple cider vinegar can eliminate warts, moles, and acne. But when I went hunting for studies, I had to get home. Vinegar is an acid, which means it can corrode skin cells and cause chemical burns. In one paper, dermatologists at Yale treated a boy. She covered the cotton balls with a bandage overnight; the next morning, the poor boy had a chemical burn and a 102-degree fever. In a 2015 paper, dermatologists treated a 14-year-old girl who had applied several drops of vinegar to a mole over the course of three days. Although her mole did peel off (yay?), She was also left with a skin damage, which, the researchers explained, could lead to scarring. Perhaps more importantly, she had now, it was impossible for the doctors to tell if the mole was cancerous or precancerous.

I called one of the doctors who treated her—Andrew Krakowski, the chief medical officer of DermOne, a network of dermatology practices around the country—and asked his thoughts on apple cider vinegar. “It’s great on your fish and chips,” he concluded, “but not so great on your skin.” (Two notable exceptions: If you are stung by a Box jellyfish in Australia, by all means treat it with vinegar, as doing so can prevent the stinging cells from releasing venom. Vinegar has also been used to treat wound infections, but I daresay that if you find yourself in this predicament , see a doctor instead.)

Related: A Woman Developed Third-Degree Burns After Using Essential Oils

Another popular claim is that apple cider vinegar cures sore throats and colds.

The logic, according to Reader's Digest, is that “most germs can't survive in the acidic environment vinegar creates.” It’s true that vinegar acts as a disinfectant, which is why it makes a good household cleaner. But there’s no reason to think that gargling or drinking vinegar will kill off the viruses causing your cold and magically eliminate your symptoms. Cold-induced sore throats are the result of your body's immune response to the infection, so even vinegar does kill a few throat-lingering viruses, it will not make you better. The infection, which sets up the shop in the upper respiratory tract, will persist. Drinking vinegar will not cure your cancer, either. This claim is based on a single onset. 69 study that it was found that an extract from Japanese rice is vinegar stopped cancer cells from growing in the lab. But that's very, very different from sips of cider vinegar curing cancer in a living human.

The acid reflux and heartburn claims also seem too good to be true.

Heartburn up into the esophagus. The theory behind the vinegar is the fact that there are sensors in the lower esophagus that can detect the presence of acid and then respond by propelling food and lingering stomach acid back down where it belongs. Yet only one small unpublished study, conducted as part of a master's degree thesis, has been done to test. In the study, the researcher tested whether chili with vinegar was added to it was less heartburn-inducing than chili without vinegar when given to people with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Yet the vinegar did not help. And some doctors find out the very idea of ​​treating heartburn with vinegar ridiculous. "Adding more acid will only make this problem worse," David Belk, an internist based in Alameda, California, tells SELF. The approach is "as practical as using tear gas to treat" 77 pink eye. "Ouch.

Let's move on to the weight loss and cholesterol claims.

According to an enthusiastic article over at MindBodyGreen, a 2009 study from Japan found that people who drank one tablespoon of vinegar diluted in 8.5 ounces of water after breakfast, followed by the same drink after dinner, experienced "significant weight loss" after 12 weeks-along with drops in abdominal fat, waist size, and blood fats. Sweet! Well, looking more closely, you might want to differ that these changes were "significant." (They were statistically significant, in that the weight loss was probably caused by the vinegar rather than by random chance, but that's different from being medically significant.) What was the study? Waist size dropped by only three quarters of an inch, on average, too. More disappointingly, four weeks after the study ended, the subjects had gained almost all of the weight back.

As for why the vinegar induced this mild weight loss, no one’s quite sure; the researchers posit that vinegar might inhibit fat production. Here’s another possibility: According to a 2014 study, vinegar "enhances satiety" in large part "due to poor tolerability", I do not know I want to lose weight because I feel too nauseous to eat.

You’re probably getting pretty down on apple cider vinegar by now, so let me perk you up with some good news.

A handful of studies have found that drinking diluted vinegar before a carb-rich meal can reduce food-induced blood sugar spikes by between 20 and 40 percent-an effect that has been shown in healthy adults as well as in people with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance. This is potentially exciting, because chronically high blood sugar. It can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes and it can damage arteries over time, leading to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Chronically high blood sugar also increases the risk for nerve, kidney, and eye damage. As Carol Johnston, associate director of the Nutrition Program in Arizona State University's School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, and a coauthor of some of these blood sugar studies explains, the acetic acid in vinegar acts to block the activity of enzymes called disaccharidases in the small intestine that are responsible for breaking down starches. (By this logic, any vinegar should do the trick-it does not have to be apple cider vinegar.) If these starches do not get fully broken down, they can not be absorbed by the body as simple sugars and wind up in the blood.

Johnston concedes, though, that we need more and better research before we start claiming that vinegar can cure or prevent diabetes or heart disease. She also warns that: people with type 1 diabetes may want to talk to their doctor before drinking diluted vinegar, because the blood syrup is not lead to hypoglycemia.

So, no: Vinegar is not going to cure everything that ails you.

The blood sugar findings are cool, but we need more research before we know how meaningful the effect really is. And it’s worth pointing out that vinegar is not completely harmless, either. Drinking or gargling vinegar can erode tooth enamel, increasing your risk for cavities. If you drink it, you can chemically burn your lungs. People have even died after drinking large quantities of vinegar. It's always important to remember that just because it is natural or common. But if you do decide to start sipping vinegar cocktails in the hopes of, say, controlling your blood sugar, Johnston offers some tips. "Dilute one to two tablespoons of vinegar in eight ounces of water, and drink it during the first bites of a meal," she says. Or you can use her preferred approach, which is to start meals with a salad dressed in a vinaigrette. Her vinegar of choice, though, is not the one you keep reading about—it's red wine vinegar. “I never use apple cider vinegar,” Johnston scoffs. “I think the taste is too harsh.”


Melinda Wenner Moyer is a science and health writer based in New York. She regularly contributes to Slate and Scientific American. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.


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