Apple cider vinegar, also sometimes referred to as ACV, is a vinegar made from fermented apple cider. Making apple cider vinegar starts with adding yeast to apple juice, transforming the juice into alcohol. Bacteria then transforms the alcohol into acetic acid.
The cloudy, stringy probiotic-rich blend of yeast and bacteria that is often visible in the bottom of a bottle of apple cider vinegar is referred to as the mother. The mother is a mixture of probiotic bacteria and yeast. While it is uncertain, many people believe the mother is responsible for most of the health claims about apple cider vinegar.
There are claims that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss, controlling dandruff, and even cure certain types of cancer. What is the truth about apple cider vinegar?
While most of the claims about the benefits of apple cider vinegar can’t be backed by science, there are three areas where apple cider vinegar does have a measurable impact — blood sugar control, weight loss, and cholesterol level.
Blood Sugar Control
Research on the relationship between apple cider vinegar consumption and blood sugar has mixed results.
A study from 2007 looked at participants all living with type 2 diabetes. The researchers recorded their fasting glucose levels at a baseline, and then again 2 days later, after following a standardized meal plan and consuming apple cider vinegar at bedtime.
Results indicated that consuming ACV at bedtime can impact glucose concentration favorably in people living with type 2 diabetes.
A commonly cited Japanese study found that participants who consumed ACV lost more weight than those who did not consume ACV over a 12-week period, and experienced a reduction in BMI, body weight, waist circumference, and visceral fat area. Acetic acid is considered the main component of ACV responsible for weight loss.
While some studies have shown that apple cider vinegar can be effective for weight loss, it is important to keep in mind that, even when effective, the impact is minimal. Some of these studies have fallen short on controlling for variables — such as the impact of ACV causing nausea, therefore reducing hunger.
A 2012 study first measured the base cholesterol levels in its participants. Participants then had to consume 30 milliliters of apple cider vinegar twice a day. After 2, 4, and 8 weeks, researchers took these measurements again. After 8 weeks, the apple cider vinegar consumption had led to a “significant reduction in cholesterol levels”.
Apple cider vinegar in moderation should be safe for consumption for most people. However, there are a few risks associated with apple cider vinegar to be aware of. These risks are mostly due to apple cider vinegar's high level of acidity.
Throat and Skin Irritation
If ingested in large amounts, or undiluted, apple cider vinegar may cause throat irritation. Because of its high acidity, it can also cause skin irritation if applied topically. There are documented instances of apple cider pills getting lodged in the throat, causing irritation, pain, and difficulty swallowing up to six months later.
Interaction with Medications
Apple cider vinegar can interact with certain supplements and medications. Two medications that it has interacted with are diuretics and insulin.
Amounts and Dosage
Because of apple cider vinegar's high acidity, it is important that, if you are going to ingest apple cider vinegar, you should dilute it with water or another mixing agent. Remember to speak to your doctor before incorporating apple cider vinegar into your diet.
A common way to take it is to mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV with 8 ounces of tea or water. Lemon and other citrus fruits may help to dull the strong taste of ACV.
You could also try to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet as a vinegar base for dressings or to pickle foods.