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apple cider vinegar

Benefits and uses of apple cider vinegar

Find out everything you ever wanted to know about apple cider vinegar – what it does, who it could benefit, and how to take it

Written by Charlotte Haigh on December 9, 2018 Reviewed by Dr Sarah Schenker on December 17, 2018

You may have heard celebrities raving about apple cider vinegar, or seen it recommended as a way to manage weight loss, but is there any solid science behind all the hype?

What is apple cider vinegar?

Just as with other types of vinegar, the key ingredient in apple cider vinegar is acetic acid, which is produced when the sugars from apples are fermented. When apple cider vinegar is filtered, it looks like a clear liquid. If it’s left unfiltered, it has a cloudy appearance because it contains a combination of yeast and bacteria that forms during fermentation, known as ‘the mother’. Many believe this is what gives apple cider vinegar its health benefits, which is why you’ll often see ‘the mother’ clearly labelled on bottles.1

Why do people take apple cider vinegar?

Traditionally, people have taken apple cider vinegar for a range of reasons, including:2,3
  • blood sugar control
  • as a weight loss tool
  • as an anti-inflammatory, for example to ease the pain and swelling of arthritis

What does the evidence show?

The few clinical trials that have been carried out on apple cider vinegar have tended to focus on the following areas:

Blood sugar control: Scientists have found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before a meal may lead to a small reduction in blood glucose levels after a meal in people with insulin resistance.4

Reduced appetite and weight loss: A 2018 study of people who were actively trying to lose weight, published in Journal of Functional Foods, found that dieters having 1.5 tablespoons a day of apple cider vinegar lost more weight than those who only followed the diet. Researchers think apple cider may work by helping to reduce appetite – it contains acetic acid, which has been shown to reduce the absorption of starches in food and slow digestion, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.5,6

Lowered cholesterol: The same study reported that apple cider vinegar reduced total blood cholesterol, while raising levels of good (HDL) cholesterol in overweight or obese people.7

In a different, small-scale study, scientists found apple cider vinegar modestly lowered cholesterol in people whose levels were not unhealthily high. Interestingly, malt vinegar didn’t have the same effect – researchers believe this means acetic acid isn’t causing the effect but rather a compound in apple cider vinegar called pectin, a type of fibre.8

Using apple cider vinegar

Most studies have suggested health benefits from taking 2tbsp a day, although it’s important to use sparingly and to dilute it at first because of the acidity.9,10

What do you need to know about taking apple cider vinegar?

Overall, it’s safe – and there’s no problem in including it in your diet. But if you’re taking it on a regular basis, especially undiluted, there are a few things to consider:

  • it’s very acidic, so may erode tooth enamel – drinking water afterwards could help11
  • if you’re prone to acid reflux, take care – vinegars generally can exacerbate acid reflux12
  • if you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys may have trouble processing the excess acid, so speak to your doctor first13
Shop Food & Drink Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

Sources 

1. University of Chicago Medicine. Debunking the health benefits of apple cider vinegar 2. BBC Trust Me I’m A Doctor. Is apple cider vinegar really good for me? 3. Aaron Kandola. Medical News Today. Can apple cider vinegar help with arthritis? 4. Harvard Health Publishing. Does apple cider vinegar have any proven health benefits? 5. Khezri SS, et al. Beneficial effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on weight management, Visceral Adiposity Index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial

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