The apple cider vinegar weight loss diet has been a popular concept for a while now – but does this strong, murky condiment really help you lose weight?
First, the bad news
Much as we might wish it otherwise, there’s no healthy way to drop lot of weight quickly.
1-2 lbs of weight loss per week is usually recommended. Much more than that and it’s unlikely you’re losing fat and more likely it’s water weight you’re dropping.1
A balanced diet, exercise and enough sleep is the gold standard for maintaining health. For weight loss, burning more calories than you take in is what works, and because of the way the human body works, this will never change.
Now the good news
Now that’s out of the way, you’ll be pleased to hear there are plenty of natural ways to keep cravings under control, help your body function at its best and generally support your weight loss.
Once you stop seeing weight loss as an un-winnable battle, and educate yourself on the way your body works, you’ll be in a good place to understand things like:
- why we get certain cravings
- why sugary foods leave us hungry
- why refined carbohydrates don’t fill us up for long
- why good digestion is key for weight loss
Apple cider vinegar for weight loss has attracted plenty of attention in recent years, with celebrities and wellness experts declaring that it is the secret ingredient to their enviable physiques.
However, far from being a miraculous new Hollywood discovery, the humble apple cider vinegar has been used around the world for thousands of years in traditional medicine.2
What is apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar (often shortened to ACV) is simply vinegar – which instead of being made from barley, corn rice or wine as with other vinegars – is made from apples.
To make apple cider vinegar, the natural sugars in crushed apples are fermented along with yeast to create alcohol. (Stopping the process here would leave you with a strong cider, which isn’t renowned for its health benefits!)
Naturally-created bacteria then feed on the alcohol, neutralising it and creating acetic acid. This is where many of the health benefits of apple cider vinegar lie.3
Apple cider vinegar contains around 5% or 6% acetic acid.4 Acetic acid is a potent anti-bacterial substance.5 This is why acetic acid-rich vinegar is used in household cleaning.
So now we know what it is. But what’s the story with apple cider vinegar and weight loss?
How does apple cider vinegar help you lose weight?
Here are the ways ACV can help you lose weight:
It can help improve digestion
Unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains strands of protein, enzymes and healthy bacteria which is known as ‘The Mother’. This looks like a cloudy, cobwebby substance at the bottom of the bottle. This substance has probiotic properties, meaning it can support a healthy gut.6
When we eat or drink anything containing probiotic bacteria, such as apple cider vinegar, the friendly bacteria it contains encourages the growth of more healthy bacteria in the gut. This supports a colony of beneficial gut bacteria (known as a microbiome).7
These beneficial bacteria help us digest and extract nutrients from the food we eat.8 If our microbiome is out of kilter and our levels of good bacteria are low, our bodies can’t get nutrients from food as effectively – and apple cider vinegar can help with that.
So, in a nutshell – probiotic bacteria = better digestion = weight loss.9
Apple cider vinegar might be especially helpful to boost digestion in older people those with an autoimmune disease, or those with anaemia.10
Those people in these categories usually experience lower levels of stomach acid. This can make digestion more sluggish. Apple cider vinegar is a highly acidic substance so the theory is that taking some each day will help raise stomach acid levels and give digestion a boost.
It can act as a natural laxative
We all know that constipation leaves us feeling bloated and heavy, while eliminating waste leaves us feeling lighter.
Adding apple cider vinegar to your morning routine could help you get going for the day. It’s not been proven in scientific studies, but many people feel that a daily dose of ACV in the morning helps to cleanse the digestive system ready for a new day.
This could be because apple cider vinegar is a source of pectin, a type of soluble fibre which is found in apples. Pectin acts as a natural laxative and could help to stimulate a bowel movement.
The levels of pectin found in apple cider vinegar are not definitively known, as it’s generally found in the apple skin and fruit itself rather than the juice.11
However, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with your morning glass of water might help get things moving so you can start your day feeling good.
It can help stabilise blood sugar
Eating foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates can cause a sudden raise, or ‘spike’, in blood sugar soon after eating. This blood sugar spike causes your body to produce lots of insulin to allow the glucose to enter your body’s cells to be used as energy.
If you’re experiencing frequent blood sugar spikes, it means your body is producing too much insulin, and your body can stop recognising it. Over time, this is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
Also, the subsequent blood sugar drop after a spike leads to increased feelings of hunger, cravings and potentially overeating. This, in turn, leads to weight gain over time.
It’s been scientifically proven that vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, can help prevent rapid raises in blood sugar, which can help keep your weight stable. This is thought to be down to the acetic acid that vinegar contains.12,13
One study saw volunteers eat a high-carbohydrate meal of white bread along with some high acetic acid vinegar. Blood glucoses and insulin responses were both significantly lower after the meal than when the bread was eaten without vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar can also improve insulin sensitivity, making it easier for the body’s cells to recognise insulin, reducing blood sugar spikes and troughs and minimising the risk of type 2 diabetes.14
It could keep you fuller for longer
Could taking vinegar with a meal keep you satisfied and less likely to reach for a snack not long after eating?
Amazingly, yes. Studies have shown that vinegar supplementation increases satiety after eating a high-carbohydrate meal containing bread.15
Apple cider vinegar is thought to slow stomach emptying, which is why you feel more satisfied for a longer period of time after eating.16 Feeling increased fullness after a meal reduces the likelihood of snacking and eating fewer calories overall.
It could suppress your appetite
It’s not just the strong taste of apple cider vinegar putting people off their food. Researchers based at Imperial College London have found that acetate – a key component in acetic acid – has a central role in appetite regulation.17
More research is needed in this area, but in the meantime, add apple cider vinegar to sauces, dressings and marinades and see if it can support you to eat fewer calories overall.
How to make an apple cider vinegar weight loss drink
Drinking apple cider vinegar straight isn’t recommended. Not only does it taste strong and some people find it unpleasant, it’s strongly acidic and can erode tooth enamel and irritate the lining of your oesophagus if regularly taken neat.
You could dilute a tablespoon or two of ACV in a 250ml glass of water, or, to make it more palatable, try the following:
- Adding crushed fresh mint leaves
- Adding a slice of fresh ginger
- Add your ACV to warm herbal tea to dilute the acidic flavour
- Using two tablespoons of ACV in a salad dressing in place of white wine vinegar
- A warm lemon and honey drink is excellent at disguising the strong taste of ACV
Always rinse your mouth after drinking apple cider vinegar to help protect your tooth enamel. If diluting apple cider vinegar in a cold drink, you could use a straw so the liquid goes straight to the back of your mouth, minimising the contact with your teeth.
Choose raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar with ‘The Mother’ to retain the healthy bacteria and ensure your ACV has as many nutrients as possible. You can spot unfiltered ACV by the distinctive cloudy, floating substance towards the bottom of the bottle. It should also be indicated on the label.
Last updated: 24 July 2020