The apple cider vinegar weight loss diet has been a popular concept for a while now – but does this strong, cloudy condiment really help you lose weight?
We weigh up the evidence in this article to help you decide whether it’s right for you or not.
Apple cider vinegar for weight loss has recently attracted much attention, with celebrities and wellness experts declaring it the secret ingredient to their enviable physiques.
However, far from being a miraculous new Hollywood discovery, the humble apple cider vinegar has been used worldwide for thousands of years in many cultures and traditional health practices.1
Apple cider vinegar has been proven to support the stomach by aiding digestion.
Unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains strands of protein, enzymes, and healthy bacteria known as ‘The Mother’.
This looks like a cloudy, cobwebby substance at the bottom of the bottle. This substance contains friendly bacteria, meaning it can support a healthy gut.2
When we eat or drink anything containing friendly 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 (a microbiome).3
These beneficial bacteria help us digest and extract nutrients from the food we eat.3
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 – apple cider vinegar can help with that.
So, in a nutshell – probiotic bacteria = better digestion = weight loss.4
Apple cider vinegar might be beneficial to boost and aid normal digestion in older people, those with an autoimmune disease, or those with anaemia.5
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 helping hand.
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 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.6
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.
Eating foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates can cause a sudden rise, or ‘spike’, in blood sugar soon after eating.
This blood sugar spike causes your body to produce lots of insulin allowing the glucose entering your body’s cells to be used as energy.
If you’re experiencing frequent blood sugar spikes, 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.7
This is thought to be down to the acetic acid that vinegar contains.8,9
One study saw volunteers eat a high-carbohydrate meal of white bread and some high-acetic acid vinegar.
Blood glucose and insulin responses were significantly lower after the meal than when they ate bread 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 .10
Could taking vinegar with a meal keep you satisfied and less likely to reach for a snack not long after eating?
Studies have shown that vinegar supplementation increases satiety after eating a high-carbohydrate meal containing bread.11
Apple cider vinegar is thought to slow stomach emptying, which is why you feel more satisfied for a more extended period after eating.7
By feeling fuller after a meal, you’ll reduce the likelihood of snacking, resulting in consuming fewer calories overall.
Being in a calorie deficit is one of the key ways to lose weight, as it allows your body to feed off the calories it has already stored.
Researchers at Imperial College London have found that acetate – a key component in acetic acid – has a central role in appetite regulation.10
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.
Drinking apple cider vinegar straight isn’t recommended.
Not only does it have a strong taste that many people find unpleasant, but it’s also very acidic. It can erode tooth enamel and irritate the lining of your oesophagus if regularly taken neat.
There are many ways to drink apple cider vinegar, including adding a tablespoon or two to a cup of green tea or even adding a spoonful to some warm water with honey and lemon.
But sometimes, the taste of apple cider vinegar can be intense.
Mixing in another ingredient like honey, lemon, ginger, or even mint can mask the strong taste with another delicious flavour.
If that’s not for you, why not swap out regular vinegar for apple cider vinegar at mealtimes? You can add it to salad dressings, make a tasty vinaigrette, and drizzle it over any dish.
If you’re looking for inspiration about how to drink apple cider vinegar, check out our helpful guide on drinking apple cider vinegar to find many ideas that you can use.
We’ve discussed the link between Apple cider vinegar (often shortened to ACV) and vinegar – which instead of being made from barley, corn rice or wine as with other kinds of vinegar – 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 so renowned for its health benefits…)
Besides small amounts of potassium, calcium and magnesium, apple cider vinegar doesn’t contain any vitamins or minerals.14
However, apple cider vinegar is an excellent source of amino acids and antioxidants, which have proven health benefits.
The “apple cider vinegar diet” is quite simply a diet that requires having 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar before every meal.
Naturally created bacteria then feeds on the alcohol, neutralising it and creating acetic acid. This is where many of the health benefits of apple cider vinegar lie.8
Apple cider vinegar contains around 5% or 6% acetic acid.12
Acetic acid is a potent anti-bacterial substance.13 This is why acetic acid-rich vinegar is used in household cleaning.
As much as we might wish it otherwise, there’s no healthy way to drop a lot of weight rapidly, and if you’re wondering how to use apple cider vinegar to lose belly fat, you’re probably not going to find a quick answer.
Drinking something like apple cider vinegar for weight loss won’t work on its own, as apple cider vinegar doesn’t burn fat.
But adding it into a routine of eating fewer calories than you burn, a balanced diet with exercise and good sleep, can all help support your weight loss goals.
Generally, a week of 1-2 lbs of weight loss is recommended for sustainable weight loss. Much more than that, and it’s unlikely you’re losing fat and more likely your water weight is dropping.15
There isn’t much research that suggests that apple cider vinegar is a miracle health cure, and there definitely isn’t any research to indicate that it is the solution to fast weight loss.
However, the information at our disposal suggests that it does have many health benefits.
If you want to lose weight sustainably, the best option would be to concentrate on your calorie and sugar intake as part of a balanced diet, get good sleep and exercise regularly.
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 07 November 2022
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.