Whether you consider yourself a health food savant or not, you’ve likely heard or seen claims espousing the miraculous effects of apple cider vinegar, ranging from weight loss elixir to digestive aid to a cure for diabetes. Let’s examine the claims and get to the bottom line.
While available in capsule and tablet form, apple cider vinegar is most commonly consumed in liquid form; it is a vinegar ( = acetic acid) made from fermented apples and can be found in either pasteurized or unpasteurized varieties.
Does apple cider vinegar do what is claimed? Like so many other topics that we have examined, the answer is not so simple. First let’s look at weight loss. The largest study to examine the effects of apple cider vinegar was conducted in Japan on 175 obese individuals – their diets and exercise levels were the same, the only variable that varied was that half of the participants drank apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks. The results showed that the apple cider vinegar lost 1-2 lbs total over the 12 week period compared with the control group. As a note all individuals gained the weight back when the study concluded. The question is, how meaningful is a 1-2 lb weight loss?
Apple cider vinegar may have benefits to blood glucose control – a sampling of initial studies indicate that it might help slow the release of glucose into the blood (avoiding a ‘spike’) and may help clear glucose out of the blood quicker. It should be noted that the studies conducted were of small sample size, and that the effects are relatively small and will surely not be effective in of itself in managing blood glucose levels.
Apple cider vinegar in its unpasteurized form does contain a “mother” giving it is thick looking substance and herein lies some gut-healthy probiotics. This helps to feed the good bacteria in our gut which could have several health enhancing benefits. So, if you do chose to consume apple cider vinegar I recommend selecting the unpasteurized variety.
The downsides of this liquid must be noted. Given that it is an acid it is well, very acidic. Studies have indeed noted cases of severe esophageal damage and tooth erosion due to this acidity. You should never drink it straight bur rather dilute 1 to 2 tablespoons in a big glass of water. It can also be used in salad dressings and other marinades.
It should also be avoided in individuals experiencing or prone to gastroparesis. Because it does slow down gastric emptying, particularly digestion of starches, this can cause an exacerbation of an already uncomfortable and even painful condition.
The bottom line? It likely won’t make much of a difference in weight loss or managing blood glucose levels; it might be helpful in supporting a healthy gut microbiota, but, it should not be considered a miracle elixir. If you enjoy it and don’t drink it straight, and you don’t have gastroparesis, there is likely no significant harm if consumed in moderate amounts.
I am including one of my favorite salad dressing recipes if you’re interested in incorporating more of this vinegar in your everyday life – it pairs quite well with an apple and kale salad!
Apple Cider Vinegar Salad Dressing
• ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (raw/unpasteurized)
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tsp dijon mustard
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 1-2 garlic cloves, mined
• Fresh salt and pepper
Place in a Mason jar or Tupperware with a lid that screws on and shake – that’s it! It has the benefit of being cheaper than most store-bought dressings and is more delicious too!