Apple cider vinegar has been around for centuries used in ancient health remedies. More recently, the media has pushed apple cider vinegar as a miracle cure for just about everything. From boosting immunity, aiding digestion, improving hair and skin health plus being all-purpose cleaning agent! It seems a daily dose of the stuff will solve all life’s problems.
With the prevalence of chronic disease and obesity skyrocketing, the most influential claim is that apple cider vinegar can assist with weight loss. The question is, does the science support this?
First thing – what is it?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made over a 2-step process. Firstly the natural sugar from apples is fermented into alcohol. Secondly, bacteria are added to convert this alcohol into acetic acid.
Nutritionally speaking, the unfiltered variety that contains the ‘mother’ has the greatest nutritional benefits. ACV, like all vinegars, is low in energy, (12kj per 1 tablespoon). It also contains amino acids, antioxidants, good bacteria (probiotics) and trace amounts of potassium.
Does it fight fat?
A 12-week study in 2009 found that body weight was a modest 1kg lower in participants who consumed 15ml of apple cider daily compared to those who didn’t. The participants also regained the weight they had lost at the conclusion of the study.
One explanation is that apple cider vinegar delays the rate at which food moves from the stomach to the small intestine, increasing satiety and therefore preventing the likelihood of overeating. Interestingly a UK study found the reason for weight loss might simply be due to feeling nauseous after drinking apple cider vinegar. The stuff tastes terrible and basically puts you off eating!
The strongest evidence for apple cider vinegar is in the area of blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. The active ingredient acetic acid has an anti-glycaemic effect to help regulate blood sugar levels. Studies done both in healthy populations and people with type 2 diabetes showed that apple cider vinegar was effective in reducing post-meal glucose and insulin levels. This research is promising for people with insulin resistance.
Just to burst the bubble though – two things – one, these results are not exclusive to just apple cider vinegar. Acidity from lemon juice, picked vegetables or other types of vinegar will have the same effect. Two, these results were evident only when participants ate high GI carbohydrates such as mashed potato. There was no effect with low GI carbohydrates such as grainy bread.
Is it worth taking?
A note of warning – you definitely don’t want to be drinking ACV straight as it can cause oesophageal damage – its acid after all! People taking medications (mainly diuretics or insulin) should be careful when consuming apple cider vinegar as it may lead to low potassium levels or hypoglycaemia. Just be safe and consult a doctor first.
Consuming a moderate amount of apple cider vinegar daily – 1-2tbsp – is absolutely ok. It might indirectly help you lose weight through feelings of fullness as well as assist with insulin resistance. Some practical ways of including it in your diet include:
- 1:1 with olive oil as a salad dressing
- Add one tablespoon to fresh fruit and soda water for a tasty beverage with your lunch or dinner
- Flavour roasted vegetables with a vinaigrette of apple cider vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and olive oil
Take home message
- Apple cider vinegar is not your godsend answer to weight loss. The most successful and proven way to lose weight is to take a lifestyle approach. Adding or subtracting single foods or ingredients just won’t cut it.
- If you are to include a moderate amount (1-2tbsp/day) of apple cider vinegar in your diet, choose the cloudy product as it contains the ‘mother’ and has the highest nutritional benefits.
- There are plenty of whole foods (wholegrains, vegetables) that can help you feel full, reduce blood sugar levels, improve gut health and assist the immune system.
- Apple cider vinegar is good for cleaning floors
Darzi, J, et.al. Influence of the tolerability of vinegar as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake, Int. J Obesity. 2014. 38 (5): p 675-81.
Kondo, T, et.al. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem, 2009. 73 (8): p. 1837-43.
Liatis, S., et. al. Vinegar reduces postprandial hyperglycaemia in patients with type II diabetes when added to a high, but not to a low, glycaemic index meal. Eur. J. Clinical Nutrition. 2010 64 (7) p. 727-32.
Ostman E., et.al. Vinegar supplementation lower glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. Eur. J. Clinical Nutrition. 2005. 59 (9) p. 983-8.