Apple cider vinegar has long been used for various health-promoting claims — from improving heart health to managing blood sugar…
Apple cider vinegar has long been used for various health-promoting claims — from improving heart health to managing blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. Incorporating apple cider vinegar into your diet typically revolves around drinking 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons diluted in water before or with some or most meals.
But can apple cider vinegar, or ACV, help you lose weight?
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help You Lose Weight?
There’s no solid proof that apple cider vinegar will burn fat and help those pounds to drop off. It can be tempting to take the results of small and poorly done studies to heart, especially when they seem to prove that something as simple as vinegar could be the answer to your weight loss goals.
Although some small studies appear promising, the scientific evidence falls far short of indicating that apple cider vinegar is an effective part of a weight loss plan.
[READ: Probiotics for Weight Loss.]
The apple cider vinegar craze probably started with a small Japanese study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry in 2009. The researchers found that participants who drank either a small (15 mL) or large (30 mL) dose of ACV daily saw improvements in body weight, BMI and body fat ratios. After 12 weeks, the researchers noted that the ACV drinkers had lower waist and hip circumferences and better waist-to-hip ratios. Importantly, from a health perspective, the ACV group didn’t just lose subcutaneous fat — the fat right under the skin that is usually easiest to lose. They also shed visceral fat — the more dangerous, deeper fat that sometimes invades the organs and increases the risks of diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver disease.
In another study of 39 participants published in the Journal of Functional Foods in 2018, researchers concluded that ACV caused a decrease in body fat and body weight when it was paired with a low-calorie diet. It also reduced participants’ appetites. For 12 weeks, all of the participants were put on a mildly reduced-calorie diet, cutting 250 calories out of their daily meals. One group also consumed 30 mL of apple cider vinegar daily. The individuals who consumed ACV daily lost more weight than those who didn’t, dropping an average of 8.8 pounds in comparison to an average 5-pound weight loss. The ACV group also had significant decreases in BMI, hip circumference, visceral fat score and appetite scores.
What Is the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet?
Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar made from crushed, fermented apples. During fermentation, the natural sugars in the fruit turn into acetic acid, which is what some people claim is behind weight loss and other health benefits. The cloudy sediment you see in raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, called “the mother,” is a byproduct of yeast and bacteria. Although it’s commonly referred to as a “diet,” the apple cider vinegar diet has no menus, lists of foods to eat or avoid, supplements or rules of any kind other than adding a vinegar-based drink to your menu a few times a day. Different variations include adding lemon, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup or stevia.
Even among apple cider proponents, there’s no consensus when to drink apple cider vinegar or how much should be taken for best effects. This simplicity is both a pro and a con of the plan. Maybe you’ll choose a spinach salad with apple cider vinaigrette for lunch, or perhaps you’ll have a Snickers bar and then hold your nose while you swallow two tablespoons of vinegar mixed in a cup of sweetened tea. Which you choose will dramatically affect not only your weight loss, but also your overall health.
Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
Lower cholesterol levels
Blood lipids are measures of fat and cholesterol in the blood. A typical lipid panel includes total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It appears that, according to several studies, ACV likely decreases triglycerides and total cholesterol. While it may increase HDL (referred to as the “good” cholesterol), in one study it also increased LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). Still, other studies showed no clear benefit from drinking ACV.
In the 2018 study mentioned above, triglycerides and total cholesterol were significantly decreased in the ACV group. HDL — sometimes referred to as “good” cholesterol — was increased dramatically in the ACV group. Unfortunately, LDL — the “bad” cholesterol — was also slightly increased among those given ACV.
In the Japanese study referenced above, all participants receiving the vinegar-based drink after breakfast and supper experienced decreases in serum triglyceride levels starting at week four of the study. Compared to the placebo group, both the low- and high-dose groups had significantly lower triglyceride levels at week four. However, only the low-dose group, not the high-dose participants, had a significantly lower total cholesterol level by the end of this study.
However, not all studies show improved blood cholesterol levels. For example, a study published in the World Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases in 2013 demonstrated that ACV did not affect LDL, HDL or total cholesterol among 504 participants who drank 30 mL of ACV daily for two months.
Blood sugar management
There is relatively robust evidence showing that vinegar eaten right before or with a meal mellows the rapid increase in blood sugar during digestion. There is some evidence that ACV also improves measures or extended blood sugar control, such as HbA1c or fasting blood glucose, although more research is needed.
In a small study, only involving 13 healthy participants, carried out in Sweden in 2005, participants were fed a series of four breakfasts, each containing 50 grams of carbohydrate. One of the meals was boiled and cold-stored potatoes dressed with vinaigrette; another was potatoes without vinaigrette. Cold-storing potatoes is a practice that increases resistant starch. These are starches that act similarly to fiber and aren’t easily digested and absorbed, thereby reducing blood sugar and insulin spikes after eating.
Two hours after each meal, the participants’ blood was tested for glucose and insulin levels. People who ate the potatoes with vinaigrette had significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels compared to the group that had potatoes with no vinaigrette.
In another small study, 11 healthy participants ate two meals — one consisting of a bagel and juice or another of chicken and rice. One of the three groups ate the meals plain, one ate these meals with the addition of vinegar and the last ate the same meals with peanuts added.
Surprisingly, both the vinegar and the peanut group members had significantly lower blood sugar after eating the high-carb bagel and juice. The individuals in both the vinegar or peanut treatment also ate roughly 200 to 275 fewer calories the rest of the day, perhaps because of a decreased appetite. This is the equivalent of a small serving of french fries at a fast-food restaurant.
A review of four well-designed studies concluded that just two teaspoons of vinegar significantly decreases blood sugar after meals, especially when the vinegar is consumed with a meal containing carbohydrates like pasta, beans or whole grains. The vinegar was not as effective when taken several hours before eating.
[READ: The 2023 Best Diet Rankings]
Apple Cider Risks and Side Effects
Tooth enamel damage
Like soda, vinegar is very acidic and can cause damage to teeth enamel for some, according to some studies. The loss of tooth enamel isn’t just unattractive. It can also be painful and expensive, as it increases the risk for tooth decay that can lead to fillings, root canals, crowns and other dental procedures. If you’re going to drink ACV (or other acidic beverages), dentists recommend:
— Diluting it in water.
— Using a straw.
— Swishing and spitting water afterward.
— Waiting at least one hour after eating before brushing your teeth.
The acidity of vinegar is so severe that drinking it undiluted — or even not diluted enough — can result in ulceration and burning of the esophagus.
Vinegar delays gastric emptying, severe cases of which are called gastroparesis — literally stomach paralysis. Because people with diabetes are among those most likely to try ACV and are at a higher risk for gastroparesis due to diabetes, this is a possible side effect to keep in mind. If you’ve already been diagnosed with gastroparesis, your doctor will likely recommend avoiding vinegar for weight loss.
According to health experts, ACV might lead to low potassium levels in the blood. If you’ve been diagnosed with low blood potassium (hypokalemia), you should avoid using apple cider vinegar as a supplement.
Apple cider vinegar can interact with many types of medications, including:
— Digoxin (Lanoxin): This drug for heart failure and arrhythmias also decreases potassium levels in the blood.
— Insulin: Both insulin and ACV decrease blood potassium and glucose levels.
— Diabetes medication: Because both decrease blood sugar, it’s possible that your sugar level will drop too low.
— Diuretics: Certain types of diuretics can decrease potassium levels, as can ACV.
— Herbal supplements: Ensure that other supplements you take don’t also lower potassium, as licorice and horsetail do. Also, keep in mind that other supplements, including bitter melon and chromium, might decrease blood sugar.
Should You Drink Apple Cider Vinegar?
Always dilute ACV before you drinking. You can water it down by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV to at least one cup of water. Other safe ways to work ACV into your regular meals include:
— Use it in a salad dressing.
— Add a small amount to your smoothie.
— Make a vinegar-based chutney to top your fish, chicken, pork or tofu.
— Pickle vegetables in ACV.
— Add a splash to your soup.
— Use it in a marinade or glaze for your favorite protein.
Apple cider vinegar pills and gummies
There may be a little research on apple cider vinegar and health, but there’s none regarding supplements containing powdered ACV or gummies. Because the FDA doesn’t oversee supplements in the U.S., it’s possible that the supplement doesn’t even contain ACV or will include unlisted ingredients. For these reasons, it’s probably more sensible to get ACV in your food or beverages instead of pills or gummies.
Bottom Line: Can Apple Cider Vinegar Help You Lose Weight?
There’s little evidence that drinking apple cider vinegar will help you noticeably lose weight. However, if you’re already committed to changing your lifestyle by adopting a healthy eating plan and exercise regimen, the addition of ACV may add a slight boost to your weight loss efforts.
“Despite the appeal to drink a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar at meals to promote weight loss, there is limited evidence to support the idea apple cider vinegar, without other dietary changes, will result in weight loss,” says Kristen Smith, a registered dietitian, and the bariatric surgery coordinator for Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. “I have never recommended a client drink apple cider vinegar prior to a meal to promote weight loss and suspect I never will,” adds Smith, the author of a blog that promotes healthful eating for the entire family and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
That’s not to say that apple cider vinegar isn’t a good choice when cooking, she notes. “I have recommended clients use apple cider vinegar as a lower-calorie flavoring agent for salads or vegetables. It offers minimal calories and a bold, tart flavor.”
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Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss? Does It Work? originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 09/05/23: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.