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Diet Myth or Truth: Vinegar Helps You Lose Weight

WebMD Expert Column

Can vinegar really help you lose weight? A recent study on mice gave hope to the idea that the acetic acid in vinegar may help trigger fat-burning genes. But until the effects are reproduced in humans, vinegar cannot be considered a weight loss aid.

Apple cider vinegar has long been touted as being good for weight loss, and several apple cider vinegar diets have circulated over the years. The acidic vinegar, along with the fruit pectin from the fermented apples, is supposed to have fat-burning effects.

In the mouse study, researchers gave either acetic acid (the main chemical in vinegar) or water to mice via a stomach tube. All the mice were fed the same diet. The researchers found that the mice that got the vinegar compound developed up to 10% less body fat than the other mice, although the amount of food they ate was not affected. It’s thought that acetic acid might turn on genes that produce proteins that help the body break down fats.

But this study cannot be considered conclusive evidence that vinegar is effective for weight loss. More and larger studies are needed before we can know for sure whether vinegar has any fat-burning benefits.

There's also no proof that taking a few teaspoons of vinegar before meals can curb your appetite or reduce cravings, as many cider vinegar diets claim. A few studies have shown that vinegar may have some impact on how quickly a meal affects blood sugar levels, but body weight was not affected.

The bottom line? Anyone losing weight on a cider vinegar diet is doing so because they are eating fewer calories, not because they're ingesting vinegar.

With only 3 calories per tablespoon, vinegar is a healthy, low-calorie way to add flavor to any diet plan. But taken alone as a daily tonic, it can be risky. Apple cider vinegar is very acidic, and may cause irritation to your throat and stomach, and even damage tooth enamel. (It should always be diluted with water or juice before you swallow it.) It also has the potential to interact with certain drugs, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking regular doses or supplements of cider vinegar.

Despite the sensational claims made for vinegar diets and other fad diets, there are no quick fixes to weight loss. Experts recommend losing weight slowly, at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week, for lasting results.

If you want to lose weight with vinegar, try eating more vegetable salads and topping them with a dressing that uses less oil and more vinegar. This will shave calories and encourage consumption of high-in-fiber, satisfying veggies.

Reviewed on October 14, 2009

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