Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of the most popular natural health products around, with claims that it can do almost anything, including sanitizing toothbrushes, curing diabetes and reducing waistlines.
It is made by chopping apples, covering them with water and leaving them at room temperature until the natural sugars ferment and form ethanol. Bacteria then convert this alcohol into acetic acid. What are the real benefits of apple cider vinegar, based on science? Here are five ways apple cider vinegar can help your health, according to experts.
Some believe that drinking a small amount of ACV before eating will lead to weight loss, and there is some evidence it could help.
A Japanese study compared weight loss between people who drank no vinegar, 15 ml of vinegar, or 30 ml of vinegar over 12-weeks. The researchers found that the groups consuming vinegar daily lost more weight compared to a group that did not consume it by the end of the study. They also had reduced visceral fat, BMI, triglycerides, and waist circumference.
Another small study had similar results. Apple cider vinegar consumption, alongside a restricted calorie diet, reduced body weight, Body Mass Index (BMI) and hip circumference for the 39 people studied. Participants also noted the benefit of appetite reduction.
Two very small studies, in 2018 and 2012, found that consuming apple cider vinegar could reduce total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. An animal study supported this finding. ACV had similar cholesterol-reducing properties in rats.
While more research is needed to see if these results are generalizable to a larger population, it’s fair to say ACV may be a good complementary option for those treating high cholesterol. But that doesn’t mean you can skip your prescribed medicines.
Reducing blood sugar
“One somewhat unknown, but important benefit of apple cider vinegar is that it can greatly reduce blood sugar levels following meals that cause a spike in blood glucose levels,” say experts. They cite a 1995 study of five subjects and their responses to six test meals to back this up.
Other studies have produced similar results, including a 2005 study of the insulin levels of 12 volunteers, and 2008 research into the impact of ACV on both healthy rats and rats with diabetes.
Even the American Diabetes Association has weighed in on the potential impact of ACV on blood sugar levels, reviewing the research and concluding that vinegar can “significantly improve” insulin sensitivity after meals in insulin-resistant people.
Keeping heart risks under check
ACV can help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are known to increase the risk of heart disease when they are too high. Additionally, alpha-linolenic acid (which ACV is high in) has also been found to reduce the risk of heart disease in women.
And it has been shown to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive rats which is a good news as high blood pressure is linked to cardiovascular disease and increased mortality rates.
So if heart health is a concern of yours, adding ACV to your diet may be something to consider.
For healthy hair
Apple cider vinegar is a common ingredient found in natural shampoos. This may be because it contains acetic acid, which helps to naturally lower pH. Research has found benefits of lower pH for hair health, and the antimicrobial benefits of ACV are well documented. ACV may also help to balance and clarify your hair and it could also potentially help hair to fight off bacteria, which may be harming the health and appearance of your locks.
An effective food preservative
Used for centuries to preserve food items such as pickles, vinegar is now becoming popular as a natural preservative in processed meat and poultry items as well.
Most home pickling uses 5 percent distilled white vinegar because it doesn’t affect the color of the vegetables or fruits, but apple cider vinegar is a popular choice due to its mellow, fruity flavor.
Another popular use for apple cider, and other vinegars, is as a food wash to reduce bacteria or viruses on the surface of fruits and vegetables. Studies have had varying results, often depending on the type of fruit or vegetable and the amount of time spent in the vinegar solution.
There are some provable benefits to consuming apple cider vinegar on a regular basis. But as with most fads, the benefits have likely been overhyped for some time. So whether you’re drinking apple cider vinegar straight or are diluting some ACV with olive oil in all your homemade salad dressings, you probably shouldn’t expect overnight results.
If you’re considering giving ACV a try, start slow to check how your stomach handles it. And consider talking to a physician you trust about the potential risks, especially if you are taking any medications, and benefits before going for it.