Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Health

Apple cider vinegar has a long history as a home remedy, used to treat everything from a sore throat to varicose veins. But there’s not much science to support the claims. Still, in recent years, some researchers have been taking a closer look at apple cider vinegar and its possible benefits.

What’s in It?

It’s mostly apple juice, but adding yeast turns the fruit sugar into alcohol -- this is fermentation. Bacteria turn the alcohol into acetic acid. That’s what gives vinegar its sour taste and strong smell.

How Is It Used?

Vinegar’s used in cooking, baking, salad dressings, and as a preservative. There’s a lot of acid in it, so drinking vinegar straight isn’t recommended. And it can cause serious problems if you have a lot of it. If you’re looking to take some for health reasons, most people recommend adding one to two tablespoons to water or tea.

The Benefits

Vinegar has been used as a remedy since the days of Hippocrates. The ancient Greek doctor treated wounds with it. In recent years, people have explored apple cider vinegar as a way to lose weight, improve heart health, and even treat dandruff.

Many of these claims aren’t supported by modern research. But some studies have found that acetic acid -- which gives vinegar its distinctive taste and smell -- may help with a variety of conditions:

Vinegar also has chemicals known as polyphenols. They’re antioxidants that can curb cell damage that can lead to other diseases, such as cancer. But studies on whether vinegar actually lowers your chances of having cancer are mixed.

The Downsides

Did we mention it’s highly acidic? Drinking a lot of apple cider vinegar can damage your teeth, hurt your throat, and upset your stomach. Also:

  • Though some studies have been promising, there’s still little evidence that drinking apple cider vinegar helps you lose weight.
  • It may also cause your potassium levels to drop too low. Your muscles and nerves need that nutrient to work the way they should.
  • Another study of people with type 1 diabetes found that apple cider vinegar slows the rate food and liquids leave the stomach to be digested. That makes it harder to control your blood sugar level.
  • It might also affect medications that treat diabetes and heart disease, as well as diuretics (medicines that help your body get rid of water and salt) and laxatives.
  • And of course, its strong taste might not be for everyone.

In short, apple cider vinegar probably won’t hurt you. Enjoy it in your diet because it’s calorie-free, adds lots of flavor to food, and has health benefits. But it’s not a miracle cure.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on January 16, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

University of Washington, The Whole U: “Beyond the Hype: Apple Cider Vinegar as an Alternative Therapy.”

Medscape General Medicine: “Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect.”

AOL Lifestyle: “15 ways apple cider vinegar can benefit your health and home.”

The Ohio State University Extension: “Making Cider Vinegar at Home.”

Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry: “Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects.”

Journal of Diabetes Research: "Vinegar Consumption Increases Insulin-Stimulated Glucose Uptake by the Forearm Muscle in Humans with Type 2 Diabetes.”

Annals of Cardiology and Angiology: “Anti-obesogenic effect of apple cider vinegar in rats subjected to a high fat diet.”

Mayo Clinic: “Drinking apple cider vinegar for weight loss seems far-fetched. Does it work?”

Dutch Journal of Dentistry: “Unhealthy weight loss. Erosion by apple cider vinegar.”

BMC Gastroenterology: “Effect of apple cider vinegar on delayed gastric emptying in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study.”

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