Nutrition Mythbusters: Apple Cider Vinegar
If you Google “Apple Cider Vinegar,” you’re likely to come upon websites extolling a wide variety of health benefits, from blood sugar control to whiter teeth. Are these claims true? Let’s take a look at the research.
The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may help reduce blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity by reducing the activity of enzymes that digest starch. There have been a few studies that back up these claims, but it is important to note that most have involved small numbers of subjects and a wide variety of methods. In other words, it’s difficult to draw conclusions that everyone who has diabetes or who is at risk for diabetes should be consuming apple cider vinegar. Also, these studies provide no consensus on how much to vinegar to consume or when (before meals, during meals, or at other times of the day). It also appears the positive effects on blood sugars only occur when the meal contains starch.
A 2009 study of 175 overweight Japanese adults found that those who consumed 1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar (mixed into a beverage) over a three month period lost an average of 2-4 pounds. However, when the participants stopped drinking the beverage, they gained back the weight. So while it’s possible to lose weight with apple cider vinegar, the effects are small and probably temporary.
Apple cider vinegar has been documented to have beneficial effects in the cholesterol levels of rats. These studies should be taken with caution, however, as humans may not see the same benefits.
Proceed with Caution
If you are going to use apple cider vinegar, it’s important to dilute it, whether you plan to drink it or apply it to your skin. Undiluted apple cider vinegar may result in burns. Also, a 2014 study which attempted to study apple cider vinegar as an appetite suppressant found poor tolerance due to nausea. Do not use it as a teeth whitener or to clean dentures; the acidity level is dangerous for tooth enamel.
You may even consider drinking it with a straw to minimize contact with your teeth.
Instead of drinking it with meals, consider adding it (and other vinegar) as a flavoring for salads and vegetables. Vinegar is salt and calorie-free, but adds a lot of flavor!
The Bottom Line: Apple cider vinegar (diluted) may have some beneficial effects for people with diabetes or prediabetes, but only in certain situations, like when meals are heavy in starch content. There are likely NO significant benefits to weight loss, and the effects on cholesterol have only been studied in rats. There are plenty of risks too if used improperly. Be sure to dilute it, whether you plan to drink it or apply it to your skin or nails.